West Ham United 2 Aston Villa 1
Saturday, 28th November 2020
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham United held on for a quite undeserved three points at the London Stadium this Monday evening, their third win on the spin enough to push them to the heady heights of fifth place.Moyes's men held on against a dangerous Aston Villa side, one who will rightly think they did enough to earn at least a draw. Ollie Watkins was both victim and villain; the forward missing a penalty and then having a late goal disallowed for a fractional offside.
The West Ham players dug deep, looking increasingly anxious against a Grealish-orchestrated Villa bombardment, but the resiliency (and no amount of recent luck too) gave them enough to squeeze over the line and claim another three points. Having played so well in defeat to Arsenal, they will know results aren't always fair.
Moyes brought Michail Antonio back into the starting line-up, replacing Haller even after his winning goal the previous week. It was a decision that never really paid off, the forward looking void of any sharpness and struggling to even sprint to chase balls into the channels.
Regardless, the Hammers started the half flying, and scored within two minutes.
After a Soucek shot in a dangerous position was blocked wide, it was Bowen's in-swinging corner to the back post that found Angelo Ogbonna alone, rising high and without contest to nod his side into an early lead.
The energy levels of Bowen and Fornals caused problems for the next few minutes, but the side slowly began to drop off. By nearly 20 minutes, the away side were dominating proceedings. A good chance for Konsa in the air signalled a shift to Villa being the only attacking force.
Hourihane was providing threatening crosses, whilst Grealish looked at the peak of his powers as he started to dictate. It was Hourihane who stung Fabianski's palms with a good freekick on the edge of the area, but minutes later it was Grealish to centre stage.
A breakaway saw the ball fired into the middle of the West Ham half for Grealish to turn. He was allowed to run at the West Ham defence and unleashed as he strode near to the edge of the area. His effort deflected powerfully off the Ogbonna block and flew past Fabianski to give Villa parity. It is worth noting that the referee denied a clear freekick to West Ham on the attack Villa countered from.
That said, Villa deserved to draw level and were controlling the game, Watkins coming close as half-time was approaching, a bouncing ball in the area flicked just wide by the striker. Hourihane threatened once more, another close range freekick but fired this time into the side of the goal.
The home side scraped through to half-time with the game still at 1-1. It had been a blistering opening, but not the indication of things to come.
In an out of character move, the manager used his bench to change things relatively early. He changed the side's shape too, taking the unfit Antonio and wing back Masuaku off to be replaced by Haller and Benrahma, the latter going wide left and taking West Ham from a five-man defence to four at the back and Fornals now as part of a midfield three.
It's hard to argue the change didn't work, and arguably won the Hammers the game. 28 seconds after the half started, West Ham took the lead once more.
After a good move, Bowen played it to the corner of the left side of the area to Benrahma. The Algerian cut inside and bent the ball towards goal, with Jarrod Bowen meeting it about eight yards from goal and flicking it on into the back of the net.
The sudden masterstroke was not without its risks. West Ham spent the half looking short in defence, especially down the left where Benrahma was often caught out of position and Cresswell forced into wider defending, often exposed, and never as comfortable as when he's part of a central three.
The defence was immediately tested and wide open, McGinn breaking into the area, only for his shot to be blocked near goal.
Grealish's influence grew further, although at times it felt as much on the referee as it did the game of football itself. One horrid act of simulation getting Fornals a very cheap booking. At the other end, Mings jumped through Haller and the referee deemed the striker to have fouled the man Mings threw him into.
On the other hand, the extra forward player did give West Ham an added dimension in attack, Fornals roaming freely and Benrahma a keen outlet down the left. The Spaniard soon got into the box and could have forced a goal on another occasion, his volleyed cross deflected wide.
However, reaching the last half hour, it was Villa's game to play, the ball theirs to use. West Ham, either by design or the sheer force of Villa were unable to sustain any sort of attacks. Haller worked hard up front, but as the game drew on he was merely a target for cleared balls.
The chances started from there. Trezeguet looked to be almost in tears after an easy chance in the middle of goal was so poorly hit that Fabianski's save may have only been preventing a goal kick.
Soon after, they had another big opening. This time, a cross from the right was cleared away by Declan Rice, but not before the referee adjudged the midfielder to have impeded Trezeguet with a pull on the shirt.
Replays showed contact and the shirt pulling briefly away from his body, yet it would be a hard argument to suggest it even slightly affected the momentum and run of the forward, who threw himself down theatrically.
Watkins stepped up, and it was his time to be the villain of the piece, stroking his shot off the bar and away where it was bundled to safety, West Ham's goal again living a charmed life from the penalty spot.
Noble was brought on for Bowen, the captain's influence and desire used to try steady the ship and get a grip in midfield, but no-one was really a match for what Grealish wanted to do, Rice the only one who seemed able to at least halt his progress one-on-one.
It was tense, it was extremely rearguard and it was never much under control, but as the board went up for five minutes of stoppage time, three points was in the West Ham grasp.
And thanks to VAR, that is where it remained.
A fine cross from the left was fired in and Watkins got goal-side of Ogbonna to prod it beyond Fabianski. The Italian defender appealed for offside, even though he was tangled with the forward even as he put it in.
The replays came on, the lines came down, and both Ogbonna and Coufal looked like they may have been keeping the striker onside. But those lines suffer no fools, and the mere inches of Watkins' sleeve that were ahead of the defenders were enough for him to be deemed offside and to keep the scoreboard showing 2-1.
The Hammers defended desperately for what remained, and they did enough to keep the door closed as the final whistle went and gave Moyes and his side a very welcome three points, especially in a game they never really controlled.
It pushes the side into fifth ahead of welcoming Manchester United and 2000 fans back to the London Stadium next weekend.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Did well two make a few vital saves and was quick off his line too. Deflection made the goal nearly impossible.
Grealish was quieter in the first half under Coufal's supervision than in the second when he moved away from the defender.
Didn't really come off for him in the first half, although by no means the worst performer and probably sacrificed due to the change of system, rather than his own performance.
Maybe should have gone out for the Grealish goal and blocked earlier, but otherwise you would say he did his job well and Fabianski was protected.
Similar to Balbuena, although Ogbonna it did appear was able to head away every cross. His goal gives him the extra mark, well taken and he lost his marker well.
Villa seemed to block his crossing and passing routes early, and then he looked shaky in the back four. He did fine, but not to the heights of recent times.
Sloppier and the focus on Grealish often meant there were gaps in the middle that Rice wouldn't usually allow to exist. Not as good on the ball as usual and the penalty foul was daft even if minimal.
West Ham's star man, bursting with energy throughout, his excellent corner nodded home and a really well taken goal a reward for getting in the right position.
Other than some clearing headers, Soucek had a poor game. He can be a touch lumbering, and the quick feet of Luiz, McGinn and Grealish in the middle were too much for him. Dug in, restricted his running in the deeper two and wasn't a problem to carry, but not his greatest game.
In the first half, it felt like Pablo was asked to take over Antonio's running for him. In the second half, he showed a real ability to find space and lead counter attacks, instrumental in the rare breaks, whilst working hard to defend. Nothing really came off, but his work-rate was again so valuable.
Either wasn't quite ready physically or not ready mentally because he seemed to be playing within himself and was nowhere near at his top level.
(Replaced Antonio, 45) Did his job reasonably well when there was a presence around him, fighting for the ball and passing well, but became just a tall player with a head as we sat deep.
(Replaced Masuaku, 45) Tried to be there in defence, only a few occasions he seemed a bit behind where he should be, but was a great outlet on the left, travelled and passed nicely, and his assist was excellent play.
(Replaced Bowen 79') Came in and quietly did a job, hustling in the middle, allowing Soucek and Rice a little more freedom to make challenges too.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Arthur Masuaku, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Angelo Ogbonna 2 Jarrod Bowen 46 .
Booked: Fornals 53 .
Sent off: None.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash (El Mohamady 88), Konsa, Mings, Targett, Hourihane (El Ghazi 74), Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Grealish, Trezeguet (Traore 74), Watkins.
Subs not used: Steer, Taylor, Nakamba, Ramsey.
Goals: Grealish (25).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Man of the Match: Jarrod Bowen.