Hammers Survive Villa Test

David Moyes extended his winning run against Aston Villa to nine games on Monday night as his West Ham United side ended November by beating the Villains 2-1 in what proved to be a tough encounter in Stratford.

Moyes has gone with an unchanged side for the last two games but with Michail Antonio passed fit to play, it was decided that the former Nottingham Forest man would replace Sébastien Haller, meaning the Frenchman dropped to the bench.

The Hammers went into the game below their opponents in the table and were looking to end a unbeaten run on the road for Dean Smith’s side. They couldn’t have wished for a better start, as they were in front inside two minutes.

The home side started the game looking to build on the success at Sheffield United eight days earlier and they were on top in the opening stages. They won a succession of corners, the second of which was met by the head of Angelo Ogbonna, as the Italian headed Jarrod Bowen’s delivery past goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez.

Having got the early advantage, instead of venturing forward in search of a second, the hosts invited wave upon wave of pressure. Villa went close when Connor Hourihane tested home stopper Łukasz Fabiański with a free-kick, following a foul on Trezeguet then seconds later Jack Grealish equalised, as he was allowed the space to run into the area and his deflected shot gave Fabianski no chance.

Since the East Londoners opened the scoring, it was Smith’s men who dominated proceedings. They might have been in front at the break but thankfully for Moyes and his players, Oliver Watkins missed his chance, sending his effort just wide after Trezeguet had played him in perfectly, while Hourihane almost scored with another free-kick.

You would have thought that certain aspects of both team’s play wouldn’t have pleased either manager at half-time but the game remained level.

Moyes decided to make a double change during the interval so he replaced Antonio with Haller, while also taking off Arthur Masuaku and introducing Saïd Benrahma.

The changes, along with the Scotsman’s instructions had the desired impact as West Ham grabbed another quick goal just after the restart, as Benrahma’s cross was met by the head of Bowen to put the Irons back on course for a third consecutive victory.

The visitors, who were beaten at home by Brighton and Hove Albion last time out were determined not to make it back-to-back defeats and should have levelled matters just after the hour mark when Trezeguet and Watkins combined but luckily, Fabianski produced a great block.

Trezeguet was in the thick of the action again on seventy three minutes when referee Peter Banks awarded the visitors a penalty after Declan Rice was adjudged to have pulled his shirt.

Smith made a double substitution before the penalty was taken, as he brought on Anwar El Ghazi and Bertrand Traoré in place of Hourihane and Trezeguet.

Fabianski had saved the last penalty he faced in the 1-0 home win over newly-promoted Fulham earlier in the month but this time, the effort from Watkins came back off the crossbar and the Hammers could breathe a massive sigh of relief.

Villa had dominated the midfield throughout the contest and in an effort to regain some control, Moyes made a final change on seventy nine minutes. Rice handed the Captain’s armband over to Mark Noble, as the regular skipper came on for Bowen.

West Ham survived another scare in the five minutes of stoppage time that were added at the end of the game. Watkins finally beat Fabianski but VAR ruled the effort out for offside, meaning Moyes had notched up another win which takes his side to fifth in the Premier League table.

All looks good ahead of Saturday’s visit of Manchester United where 2000 fans will return to Stratford for the first time in nine months.

Before the encounter with Villa, it was announced that the Irons would make the trip to Stockport County in the third round of the FA Cup with the tie taking place during the weekend of 8-11 January.