Change in Fortunes at Villa
West Ham United’s good record at Villa Park continued on Sunday afternoon, meaning they are finally off the mark in the Premier League this season, following a 1-0 win.
David Moyes made five changes from the team that beat Viborg FF three days earlier, as Łukasz Fabiański returned in goal, while Kurt Zouma was restored to the defence alongside debutant Emmerson Palmieri.
Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen regained their places, while Gianluca Scamacca replaced Michail Antonio, who dropped to the bench, which also included Alphonse Areola, Angelo Ogbonna, Manuel Lanzini, Maxwel Cornet, Saïd Benrahma and youngster Connor Coventry.
Both teams came into the contest off the back of midweek games so, it has to be said that this one started off as a bit of a dull affair, although the Hammers were the better team in the first-half. Palmieri did prevent a villains’ counter-attack from gathering momentum, while Scamacca was also keen to show the travelling contingent more of what he was capable of.
The Irons thought they had a chance to go in front but a ball from Pablo Fornals was blocked by Calum Chambers before it could reach Bowen.
West Ham were relieved to see the linesman raise his flag minutes later, as Ezri Konsa beat Fabiański, following a corner which was delivered into the box by Lucas Digne. However, the ball had already gone out of play and his effort was disallowed.
The visitors were showing great defensive resilience having conceded five goals in their opening three league games. Evidence of this occurred when Oliver Watkins went close but fortunately for those in the away end, Zouma was in his way and deflected the effort behind.
Referee David Coote then awarded Steven Gerard’s side a free-kick but thankfully, the danger was cleared by Scamacca.
Moyes was forced into making his first change on twenty three minutes, as Ben Johnson picked up an injury and was replaced by Vladimír Coufal.
Scamacca then set up Fornals to have a go at goal but unfortunately for the Spaniard, he sent the ball wide.
When Coote blew the whistle for the break, the deadlock was still to be broken.
The Hammers’ boss decided to make a second change during the interval, as Palmieri was withdrawn and Benrahma took his place with the change meaning that the visitors had reverted to a back four.
This suited the East Londoners, who nearly found the opener. Benrahma applied the pressure and picked out Fornals, who in turn found Bowen and the former Hull City winger was through on goal and about to pull the trigger before he was stopped by a superb block from Digne.
The visitors were still on top as Scamacca then tested home goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez after combining with Tomáš Souček, before Benrahma tried his luck but his attempt missed the target by a long way.
On sixty five minutes, West Ham made a third change with Antonio entering the fray in place of Scamacca.
Coming into this game, Moyes was yet to see his side register a goal but just nine minutes later, that all changed. Fornals took aim and his shot deceived Martínez, via a deflection off Konsa. No matter how it went in, believe me, the travelling support would have taken that and a loud roar could be heard!!!
West Ham had put a lot of energy and endeavour into their performance in the Midlands and they might well have had a second to show for their efforts but neither Bowen, nor Declan Rice could add more gloss to the scoreline.
A first triumph of the season for the East Londoners moves them up to sixteenth in the table. Now they just have to try and build on this result when they are back in Stratford on Wednesday night, as they will look to end August by beating fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur.