Hammers Put Villa To The Sword

David Moyes hasn’t lost to Aston Villa since 2010 when he was in charge of Everton and that run continued as West Ham United bounced back from UEFA Europa League disappointment to beat the Villains 2-1 in Stratford on Sunday afternoon.

Two changes were made to the side that narrowly lost to Sevilla on Thursday night, as Łukasz Fabiański was back in goal, meaning Aliphonse Areola dropped back to the bench, while Nikola Vlašić missed out on selection completely due to injury and Saïd Benrahma replaced him.

Andriy Yarmolenko had returned from compassionate leave in Ukraine and was included in the matchday squad, while Youngsters Armstrong Oko-Flex and Sonny Perkins were also named.

Both goalkeepers were tested in the early stages with the visitors going close first, through Danny Ings but fortunately, Fabiański was alert to the danger and made a sharp save before Aaron Cresswell tried his luck after he was played in by Benrahma but visiting stopper Emiliano Martínez held on.

The Algerian then had a go himself but unfortunately sent his effort wide. Pablo Fornals then went close but fellow Spaniard Martínez was relived to see his effort go wide.

Villa, now under the stewardship of Steven Gerard, were patient in their play and had a great chance to go in front when youngster Jacob Ramsey ran into the area and set up Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho but fortunately, Kurt Zouma was in the right place to make a great block.

The hosts had a great chance to go in front on the half-hour mark when Cresswell controlled the ball and then crossed it over to Tomáš Souček who beat Calum Chambers to the ball, only for the Czech to head wide.

Referee Jarred Gillett brought the first-half to a close with neither side able to take the advantage.

Gerard had to make a substitution early in the first half and Moyes was forced to do likewise in the second. Fifty two minutes had passed when Michail Antonio picked up an injury and was replaced by Yarmolenko. The Ukrainian received a rapturous welcome from all the fans inside the stadium.

Although the substitution was made, it was the Villains who went ever so close to opening the scoring. Ings looked odds-on to beat Fabiański but somehow the Pole managed to divert the effort from the former Burnley, Liverpool and Southampton man onto the post before holding onto the ball at the second time of asking.

On fifty seven minutes, Moyes lost another player to injury as Creswell was taken off and Ryan Fredericks was introduced.

With an hour gone, West Ham had two attempts to go in front. Zouma had his header from a corner expertly saved by Martínez, only for Craig Dawson to head over on the follow-up. Dawson is usually reliable on headers in front of goal but not this time it seemed.

On seventy minutes, West Ham finally made the breakthrough and what a goal it was!!! The Irons once again applied the pressure and Benrahma played a superb ball into Yarmolenko’s path. He controlled the ball and then shot on the turn, thus leaving Martínez helpless. As they had done when he was introduced into the action, both sets of fans applauded and the frontman was clearly and understandably emotional as he celebrated.

Yarmolenko hasn’t scored since getting the equaliser against Villa on last day of the 2019/20 campaign and he nearly helped himself to a second but his right-footed effort only found the side netting.

West Ham made sure of the points in the closing stages when a great team move involving Captain Declan Rice and Benrahma, ended with Fornals slotting the ball past Martínez.

Moyes made his final change with three minutes of normal time to play, as Benrahma was withdrawn and replaced by Issa Diop.

The majority inside the stadium were bemused when the fourth official added a further six minutes to the end of the game as this gave the visitors time to reduce the deficit. They did just that as Ramsey linked up with Emiliano Buendia to finish past Fabiański.

Having confirmed their first win of March, the East Londoners now welcome Sevilla for the second-leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie on Thursday night hoping to overturn a one goal deficit and book their place in the quarter-finals of the competition.