Filed: Saturday, 18th August 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham's 2012/13 league campaign got off to the best possible start thanks to captain Kevin Nolan's first half winner.
In front of a near capacity crowd, Nolan scored the only goal of the game to get United up and running in their first game back in the Premier League since last May's play-off Final win over Blackpool.
With the August sun burning overhead - the temperature inside the Boleyn Ground was touching degrees - Sam Allardyce's new-look team took a while to get going but eventually found their feet and, in the end, were fully deserving of the three points.
Villa, who looked the better side in the opening exchanges produced exactly what you would expect from a team managed by Paul Lambert - bar, most importantly, an end product.
England striker Darren Bent, who nearly joined West Ham four years ago, was a virtual bystander throughout the game despite the visitors seeing plenty of the ball in the first half such was the dominance of West Ham's central defensive pair of Winston Reid and James Collins, making his second debut for the club.
Collins, playing against his old club and no doubt out to prove a point was absolutely outstanding and deservedly named Man of the Match by the sponsors.
But just as influential on the day was fellow debutant Mo Diame, who took the game by the scruff of the neck and almost single-handedly swung it back in West Ham's favour when Villa looked the more likely to score.
The game's only goal came with five minutes of the first half remaining.
Mark Noble's free kick - one of several West Ham were awarded in quick succession - found its way to Ricardo Vaz Te at the back post. The Portuguese forward pulled the ball back and, as was so often the case last season, Nolan was on hand to prod the ball over the line.
Villa, for all their early promise produced little after the break and if anyone was going to score a second West Ham looked the more likely.
Carlton Cole was denied what appeared to be a fairly obvious penalty when he was shoved in the back by Ron Vlaar just moments after the restart, whilst substitute Modibo Maiga saw an effort cleared off the line in injury time after he had rounded Villa 'keeper Shay Given as West ham countered.
But those missed chances mattered not come the end of the game and the final whistle was greeted with jubilant scenes inside the Boleyn Ground as West Ham secured their first win back in the big time at the first attempt.
SO CLOSE: Mo Maiga rounds Shay Given but his effort is cleared off the line
Match facts: West Ham Utd 1 Aston Villa 0
West Ham Utd: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Collins, Reid, McCartney (O'Brien 71), Diame, Noble, Nolan (Tomkins 73), Vaz Te, Taylor, Cole (Maiga 81).
Subs not used: Henderson, Diarra, O'Neil, Maynard.
Goals: Nolan (40).
Shots on/off target: 4/4.
Fouls committed: 17.
Aston Villa: Given, Baker, Vlaar, Clark, Lowton, El Ahmadi (Weimann 61), Delph (Bannan 77), Ireland, N'Zogbia (Gardner 74), Holman, Bent.
Subs not used: Guzan, Lichaj, Herd, Burke.
Booked: Clark (39).
Shots on/off target: 6/4.
Fouls committed: 8
Referee: Mike Dean (7).
Did you know? Today's clean sheet was the first West Ham have kept on the opening day of a Premier League season at the Boleyn Ground since beating Tottenham 1-0 in August 1999.
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07:56PM 20th Aug 2012
''For the first half of the first half, there was one side playing some very neat and tidy football; looking like the real West Ham. Since it was Villa doing it, rather than us, it's a little fortunate there was no penetration to it. We looked as we did for a lot of last season. Plan A - pass lots of tight little triangles, in very little space, that are going nowhere. Plan B - whack a long diagonal ball forward. Inspiring it was not!
We did shut Villa out. Whilst that's nice, I can't help feeling that better teams will make life much more difficult. The pick of the Villa players were Vlaar and Baker. Beyond that, I can see why Savage is tipping them for relegation. The two players mentioned did well, if not unequivocally well. None of the others made enough of an impression for me to remember them. That does not bode well. But then there's us!
Percy's pre-match thread was extremely negative about the ref. Yes, you can complain he didn't give us a penalty, but the decision that mattered most, he did get right - it was a goal. The penalty? Soft if given, I think; we'd have been whinging if it were given against us. The 50-50 shoves went more their way than ours. After that?
Maiga had a lively 10 minute cameo. Collins deserved his man of the match, I feel. Diame I know very little about. On today's showing, he's a trier at least. Not always effective, but hell, he works and, unlike practically everyone else, he displays invention. Cole has been unfairly labelled a donkey but, if a donkey he is, he bears that animal's workload and did again on Saturday. Apart from Nolan doing sod all, other than sticking his foot out for the goal, and McCartney trying to ruck the linesman when George was clearly in the wrong, I can't find anything else to comment on.
We were solid, we didn't concede, we semi-pinched a goal. We were dull. If we're consistent, that will probably keep us up. Six of the current bottom eight (ex-Liverpool and Spurs) are absolutely teams we're capable of beating. Much will hinge on whether we do...''