West Ham United 1 Aston Villa 1
Sunday, 26th July 2020
by Chris Wilkerson
The weirdest season in Premier League history ended with a stale and dull draw for West Ham as Aston Villa did just enough to survive for another season.A two-minute burst of action 84 minutes into the game saw a vital Grealish goal followed by a deflected Yarmolenko effort for a very tame 1-1 draw to end the season.
It was a game in which no one really excelled, Villa anxious not to concede and West Ham probing meekly and missing the drive that has carried them to safety in recent games.
Most of the action came from watching the antics of the Villa players, with multiple dives, nasty little niggling hacks and the running rivalry between a fired up Jack Grealish and the always angry Ryan Fredericks.
Fredericks had returned to the team after an injury to Cresswell ruled him out, academy product Johnson moving across to the left side of the back four.
West Ham will feel they controlled the first half, keeping possession well and looking to play attractive football and stay on the front foot against a nervous opponent.
But it did not translate to chances, both sides finding it difficult to really create anything of note throughout the game.
The best chance came early on, Antonio making it onto a diagonal from the back by Diop. As it bounced in front of him and into the area, the forward slashed at it with none of the required composure and saw the ball fly well wide after a really poor attempt at goal.
There was nice build up and link ups as Noble kept finding an overlapping Fredericks making inroads down the right, but it was another game to act as a reminder of how poor this team has been at finding decisive passes. A counter attack led by Antonio was a frustrating example, delaying to pass and then playing it to Bowen with poor pace and direction to force the wide man away from goal.
Bowen and Antonio were replaced at half time, with Haller and Yarmolenko coming on and the attacking pace in the side all but stripped away.
Villa came out fired up, clearly having taken a rollocking from a manager who had seen them play poorly in the opening 45. They should have scored early on, McGinn tamely passing a shot towards goal with his weaker right foot when in space at the back post.
Moments later, Grealish was sliced down by Fredericks on the byline, the resulting freekick landing on the head of Samatta, the striker heading over having jumped far too early. He is certainly one player they need to improve upon if they want to stay up again next season.
It was a ten minute wave of pressure that dissipated as Villa shrank back into a defensive shape and watched West Ham keep possession and try to manoeuvre the ball side to side and find an opening.
They didn?EUR(TM)t. The odd moment of opportunity was often wasted, too much dalliance on the ball when in a good position. Only young Ben Johnson can really be happy with what he added to the attacking player, curling in some delightful crosses with his weaker left foot.
In contrast, Declan Rice seemed to consistently hit poorer and poorer shots like it was some sort of challenge.
In the end, it all came down to three crazy minutes. It was that man Jack Grealish who broke the deadlock, as surely the scripts would have wanted.
McGinn has space on the right side of the box to shoot, but instead plays it across the edge of the area to Grealish. He shifts it quickly into the area and onto his left foot before firing it goal.
The shot was hit hard, but right at the centre of goal and at Fabianski. Luckily for Villa, Fabianski dived low and was weak in the wrists as it hit his hand and burst through to end up in the back of the net.
The celebrations were raucous, but that comfortable feeling was short lived.
Up the other end, mere moments after the game had restarted, Andriy Yarmolenko had the ball on the edge of the area. However obvious it might be what he plans to do in those positions, it still happens, and from the right he shifted the ball onto his left foot and tried to curl one at goal.
And who else but Grealish for it to cannon off, loop into the air and over the desperate dive of Pepe Reina in the Villa goal and give West Ham a point that they deserved.
Five minutes remained, but the drama was over. The game was done, a truly forgettable 90 minutes of football quite the perfect way to end a season most would rather forget too.
The point here and a win for Brighton meant West Ham finished the season in 16th, maybe lucky to have got there thanks to just how bad the four teams below were.
But survival was important, giving the hope that something better can come next season. The prize assets are likely to stay, or at least won?EUR(TM)t be stolen for cheap akin to the departures of Joe Cole and Glen Johnson in relegations past.
Instead there is hope for some summer transfers to add a spark and fix some leaks, the permanent acquisition of Tomas Soucek one such signing that feels important.
It will likely be with David Moyes in charge too, who can again be happy to come into West Ham in a time of need and ensure the misery of relegation is not suffered. It?EUR(TM)s a short summer break now, but debate over his place in charge will surely rage on.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
The goal was really poor. Failed his only real test.
On the front foot much more this game, trying to get in behind the Villa defence and made a couple good runs through the middle too. And took out Grealish, which was a treat.
Defensively very good, using his strength well and pace, but deserves praise for overlapping down the left and whipping in some fantastic crosses on his weaker foot. Looks the best full back at the club, currently.
Some good defensive headers were very evident, and the pass to Antonio deserved much better.
Calm and collected, as ever. One little fake in the corner to dribble the ball out was delightful.
Some of his passing was a lower standard than he holds, whilst his shooting was erratic and a little selfish.
Say what you want about his physical play, but we don?EUR(TM)t have a player anywhere near as good at picking a pass, whilst he has wily veteran instincts to win freekicks. As ever, always showed for the ball.
Somewhat of a non-entity in attacking areas, although the poor play and crossing delay is more to blame, he did some quiet and unspectacular defensive work to keep things tight. Another game that proves he?EUR(TM)s not just a tall target to hit.
Tried hard, ran into space and is good in tight spaces when we are ticking over possession like this. But the attack was just very flat.
Was an injury doubt prior to the game and it never clicked for him.
Put that miss in the argument for Antonio not being the main striker at the club. Harshly booked and taken off probably to protect him. Wasn?EUR(TM)t on it today.
(Replaced Bowen) Got the lucky goal, but otherwise he was too static and his desire to cut onto that left foot often means he is standing still and waiting in an almost obsessive manage to get that movement.
(Replaced Antonio) He was poor, but he was given little chance to be much else. The service was poor and/or ponderous.
(Replaced Fornals) The best of the subs, getting involved in tight areas and moving with the ball well. It would be a shame to give up on him, he is showing signs of improvement and is our best player in moving the ball quickly and playing calmly in tight spaces.
(Replaced Noble) Whilst he only had minutes to do anything, he just seemed to be stood on the side with no desire to get the ball or involved.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play. * Other unused subs: Conor Coventry, Xande Silva.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Ben Johnson, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Andriy Yarmolenko 85 .
Booked: Michail Antonio 22 Ryan Fredericks 50 .
Sent off: None.
Aston Villa: Reina, Guilbert, (Hause 76) Mings, Konsa, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Trezeguet (El Ghazi 90), Grealish (c), Hourihane (Nakamba 76), Samatta (Davis 67).
Subs not used: Nyland, Taylor,, Jota, Lansbury, Vassilev.
Goals: Grealish (84).
Booked: Samatta (41).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Man of the Match: Ben Johnson.