Premier League
Aston Villa 1 West Ham United 4

Sunday, 31st October 2021
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham won again on the road, digging for three points this Halloween with a battling performance and eventually rewarded for their perseverance to give them a spectacular 4-1 victory at Villa Park.

It was not a scoreline that told the whole story of the game, with the Hammers off their usual rhythm as Aston Villa rushed and harried their opponents and played with more blood and guts than quality.


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With a 2-1 second half lead, a red card gave Moyes?EUR(TM)s side a man advantage. Whilst the Villa fans and manager were infuriated, they were arguably lucky not to have had two sent off in the incident. Whilst the home side rallied, the numbers and lead eventually gave West Ham the space for two late goals.

The side remained unchanged from the win over Tottenham the week before, with Ben Johnson still keeping Vladimir Coufal on the bench.

Aston Villa, on the other hand, came into the game off the back of three defeats and made a noteworthy change as Captain Tyrone Mings was dropped.

Moyes will have been happy with how his side started. As is becoming a theme in recent games, the start was fast and the Irons took control of the game. The opening exchanges showed again that this West Ham side is currently a level above the midtable sides in the Premier League. Where last year they were maybe edging out these 50/50 matches, this season they take control of games and can dominate the teams below them.

And whereas in the other games these fast starts have reaped no reward, this time the performance and pressure was allied with a goal, from maybe the most unlikely of sources.

As Rice took the ball in midfield and drove through the centre of the park, he looked up to float a curling pass down the right to Johnson. With Targett giving him space, Johnson moved towards the area and was allowed to easily cut inside onto his left foot. The gap was never closed, the defender so eager to usher him down the line, and Johnson took advantage of the space afforded to him.

Driving the ball firmly with his left foot, the full back placed the ball with power into the far corner and beat Martinez's dive to give West Ham a 1-0 lead inside the first ten minutes. It was an excellent finish, with Johnson later crediting Antonio's encouragement the weekend before, having told the young defender to take advantage of such opportunities to cut inside.

Leon Bailey had half a chance from a Villa freekick after Ogbonna only flicked on the ball into the box, but his weak shot was all his side had to offer in the opening stages. Last season, West Ham came here with two right backs to counter the threat of Jack Grealish. This season, there was no player really standing out as a threat, especially with Danny Ings unfit.


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At the other end, Benrahma and Bowen combined well to nearly double the lead for the away side. The Algerian, operating from the left with Fornals central, was excellent as he used his body and balance to roll and then shrug off his defender and open up the space in the Villa half. He played wide to Johnson, who gave Bowen a chance in the area. His first shot was blocked having beaten the goalkeeper and arguably going in, but the ball fell back to the winger. His second shot was much better, ferociously hit and sailing at goal, only for Matty Cash to get his head to the ball and save what looked like a ball about to nestle in the top corner.

With the opening stages gone, West Ham let the game drift a little and Aston Villa started to come back into things. What is worth noting is that throughout the game, Villa's best spells came when the match was at breakneck speed and messy, preferring the chaos to any real control. West Ham were at their best when they controlled the ball, and Moyes was clearly dismayed at how his team was dragged into a fight rather than using their superior ability to calmly manage the game and exploit the gaps left by their opponent's more rudimentary approach.

Dropping deeper to defend and failing to hold possession, it was only Benrahma who really managed to put any pressure on the home side's defender's as they played out from the back. When he did so, he often forced them back to start again, but his teammates never matched him on the front foot. At the back, clearances started to go wayward.

Losing control in this way allowed Smith's team back into the game. With the ball in the West Ham half, John McGinn broke from formation to find space out wide. The ball got to him with no one nearby, both Cresswell and Fornals rushing over to press. Fornals was closer, but dropped back as Cresswell pushed out, only for McGinn to pass around him easily and find Buendia in space down the right side of the penalty area. Fornals was late getting to him, having originally gone towards McGinn, and tried to tackle the Argentine from the wrong side and was easily beaten.

Buendia, who earned a big money move to Villa on the strength of his creativity, cut the ball back to the centre of the box for Watkins, who was in space and guided the ball at goal and into the back of the net to equalise. Fabianski got a toe to the ball and may have done better, arguably too far over originally covering his front post and not able to get across quickly enough to stop what was not a particularly well-aimed effort.

The Villains had the momentum and had awoken their crowd, but they were soon silenced by another fantastic goal.

This one came slightly against the run of play, and again questions will be asked over the goalkeeping.

Benrahma made space once more in the attacking third, cutting in from the left and drifting by players. Rice screamed for it in space and the ball was laid off to him. Under little pressure, he unleashed from 25 yards and his shot went through the defence and off the inside of the post and into the back of the net down to Martinez's right. The effort was certainly struck well, and the accuracy was inch-perfect, but it is certainly one the goalkeeper will be disappointed to have conceded. It did more than just give West Ham the lead again, it also sucked the life out of the fans and helped West Ham see out the remaining seven minutes to half time without incident.


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It was certainly an open game still as the sides came out for the second half, but it was only four minutes in that Villa shot themselves in the foot.

On the counter attack, Fornals and Bowen combined. A slightly poor touch moving with the ball from our half to theirs gave the Villa defender a chance to win the ball. His approach to that involved a forearm smash to the face of Fornals, the Spaniard absolutely wiped out as an elbow smashed him across the chin.

The ball carried on through to Bowen, who was in behind the Villa defence. After Kortney Hause had wiped out Fornals, Ezri Konsa pulled Bowen back and took Bowen's legs from underneath him with the forward knocking the ball into the box. He was taken down, through on goal, and whilst the ball was going straight to the touchline rather than at goal, Bowen was through. Had he not been taken down, he would easily have walked at goal and taken an effort. It wasn't a free goal by any means, but it was undeniably an opportunity.

The referee gave the defender a yellow, but both incidents were looked at by VAR. They let the first one go, somehow, but the second one was not. They asked the official to look again at the incident, and he agreed with the upgrade to a red card.

The fans and their manager were outraged, and it came across on the pitch too. Rather than giving West Ham an edge, the ten minutes that followed were the best the home side had played all game.

A lot of their threat came from long throws, Cash flinging missiles into the box that caused carnage. Soucek was winning headers every time, but the second ball caused trouble too. They bombarded the box, and their best chance of the half coming as they recovered another header Soucek won. McGinn chipped a ball back into the middle of goal and Watkins rattled the bar with a header. Replays showed Fabianski had got a crucial touch to it, flicking the ball with a finger onto the bar and saving a goal.

With the pace high again and Villa's fire and thunder approaching dragging West Ham down, and Moyes reacted. Lanzini came on at the expense of Benrahma, moving Fornals wide and the Argentine's ability in possession settling down the midfield and helping them hold onto the ball.

Calming the side down, they got to grips with the pace of the game once more. Rice's smashed freekick was a sign of intent, the threat returning to their play. Whilst things stayed even, Villa failed to create any chances and the sting was slowly taken out of them.


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Maybe had they played with more composure, they could have taken advantage of West Ham's disorganisation against the fury. Instead they raged, with John McGinn trying to force a sending off after Fornals and Nakamba collided for a 50/50. The Scottish midfielder sprinted over to shout in the Spaniard's face, the midfielder himself hurt from the challenge and collision he was involved in. Lanzini pushed McGinn away, but his tirade continued, before he felt the push of Bowen and flopped weakly to the floor. Fornals, Bowen and Fornals were booked.

The home side got desperate, still a goal down and throwing more men forward even with the sending off.

With their team stretched, West Ham eventually profited. A long ball forward was flicked on by Antonio. He was dragged down to the ground by the neck, a disgusting challenge that went unpunished by the official, but the ball flew behind the defence and through to Bowen just inside the Villa half.

His pace drew him away from Nakamba running back and he made his way into the area and shot across goal with his right. Martinez parried it to the side, but only into the path of Fornals. From a tight angle, he passed the ball into the back of the net and gave West Ham a lead that looked truly unassailable from there.

Five minutes later, the poetic justice continued in the face of McGinn as Bowen put a seal on things with a fourth goal from a lovely attacking move.

Fornals passed it towards Antonio from the left and the striker rolled his defender and turned at goal. He dribbled at the area, but rather than shooting, he slid in Lanzini down the right of the area. The Argentine could have shot, but had the presence of mind to roll the ball across the goal to Bowen who smashed into an empty net with ease and rounded off the performance with four goals from four different players and extended West Ham's unbeaten away record to eight games, with six wins from those.

The full-time whistle went and the players celebrated with the fans, Ben Johnson at the heart of things after another fantastic performance.

It drew the side level on points with City once more, 4th in the league. It is their most points after ten games of a Premier League season, and their most goals too, with David Moyes's side showing yet again that they have moved forward once more in their development and pushing on and on to compete with the sides above them. With Liverpool next week, Chelsea and City soon to follow, the tests will come again and they get harder. But for now, West Ham are thriving in three competitions and performing above all expectations again.


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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Could have questions with the first, but answered back with the save from Watkins.


Ben Johnson
Excellent at both ends. You can?EUR(TM)t drop him right now, such are his performances. Defended Bailey so well, was good in the air snd the goal was absolutely superb. More tackles and more interceptions than anyone on the pitch.


Aaron Cresswell
Fine on the ball but the goal was made through poor play in combination by him and Fornals, and the main mistake was his.


Kurt Zouma
Solid in the air and covered round well, both defenders would be disappointed with Watkins having the space for the goal. Battled well and dealt with the pressure when Villa had their backs up. Didn?EUR(TM)t make the wild and reckless clearances that Ogbonna did.


Angelo Ogbonna
As mentioned above, it was some of his long balls from the back that made it so the ball kept coming back and made it harder for the team to keep control of the ball and the game.


Declan Rice
The boy is good, so very good. The goal maybe should have been stopped, but the accuracy is excellent. He spread the ball wide for Johnson?EUR(TM)s goal, forced a good save from a freekick. And that?EUR(TM)s before the generally fantastic midfield work.


Tomas Soucek
After the ref card, Villa came at West Ham with fire and outrage. The long throws were worrying but Soucek won headers on them, as well as long balls forward. Good passing to spread play too.


Said Benrahma
A little unlucky for him that the game opened up later on and he wasn?EUR(TM)t on at that point, but whilst he had his frustrating moments, in the first half he defended from the front excellently and kept to task more than others. Opened the midfield up for Rice?EUR(TM)s goal.


Pablo Fornals
Was a little up and down in chunks of the game, but he stays on because of his discipline and his ability to make smart choices on the ball under pressure. His hard work was rewarded late on, the goal taken well and his forward passing good to start the move for the fourth goal.


Jarrod Bowen
Worked relentlessly down the right to keep disciplined defensively whilst offering a threat too. It was late on that he shone, the two second half goals down to some excellent work from him.


Michail Antonio
One of his quieter games but the flick on for Fornals?EUR(TM)s goal and the pass to Lanzini for Bowen?EUR(TM)s were brilliantly done.



Substitutes

Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Benrahma, 64) Came on to manage possession better than the team had been and he absolutely did. Lovely presence of mind for the assist too.


Vladimir Coufal
(Replaced Bowen, 90) On for a few seconds to waste time.


Nikola Vlasic
(Replaced Fornals, 90) On for a few seconds to waste time.


Alphonse Areola
Did not play.


Craig Dawson
Did not play.


Issa Diop
Did not play.


Arthur Masuaku
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: Ben Johnson 7 Declan Rice 38 Pablo Fornals 80 Jarrod Bowen 85            .

Booked: Pablo Fornals 79 Jarrod Bowen 79        .

Sent off: None.

Aston Villa: Martínez, Cash, Hause, Konsa, Targett, Nakamba, McGinn, J Ramsey (Young 15), Buendia (Mings 52), Bailey (El Ghazi 72), Watkins.

Subs not used: Steer, Tuanzebe, Chukwuemeka, Archer, Davis, A Ramsey.

Goals: Watkins (34).

Booked: McGinn (79).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Ben Johnson.