Aston Villa 1 West Ham United 3
Wednesday, 3rd February 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham put in arguably their performance of the season as they went to Villa Park and beat their hosts comfortably 3-1.The headlines will go to Jesse Lingard, starting his first Premier League game for 13 months and scoring two on his West Ham debut, but the team was fantastic from front to back.
And for any criticism the manager may have taken from the defeat to Liverpool, the credit should go to him today for how his team was set out to play and how fantastically they did it. With the position and performances of Aston Villa this season, this was a huge win for David Moyes and West Ham?EUR(TM)s push to earn a place in European competition.
The team-sheet raised questions, Fredericks and Lingard replacing Bowen and Fornals respectively, the right back coming in to play on the wing ahead of Coufal and contain danger-man Jack Grealish.
Both decisions were justified throughout the game, Fredericks fantastic in his cover for Coufal and also a good threat with his pace when he did join attacks. The forward play was mainly led by Antonio, Benrahma and Lingard, the latter two in particular looking attuned to each other from minute one. Soucek and Fredericks were the cavalry to join attacks that took some building, and it worked to keep Aston Villa consistently worried by each and every West Ham attack.
Lingard played central, moving Benrahma out to the left, and was notably influential. Finding pockets of space, his intelligence on the pitch was clear. The loanee was always on the move, comfortable with the ball in difficult situations and showed the football brain of a man who is thinking of what?EUR(TM)s next as he receives the ball.
The game built slowly, both teams taking periods of control, but West Ham had the better of it throughout. Lingard and Benrahma had the defence on strings, and each man looked eager to find space to fire in shots too.
It was an entertaining affair, even without flowing chances. Each side was eager to get on the ball and play, and they both have players who could work hard in the team but also break away to add individual magic. Where maybe they were separated was how West Ham looked to defend against their opponent?EUR(TM)s star man. Coufal was excellent the whole game, bullying, harrying and jockeying Grealish any time the ball came towards him. Any time he looked to pin him one-on-one, Fredericks was there to double up.
The away side may have had the better of it, but the closest either came was from the boot of Watkins. Dawson was sloppy in possession, and with Villa pressing high, his loose control allowed Grealish to nick in then play a ball to Watkins. The striker got into the box on the left hand side and curled to the far post. Fabianski was beaten, but the flick off the post was on the outside and the ball flew wide. He had missed a half chance with a header over earlier too.
At the other end, West Ham may well have been looking back at a possible penalty. Soucek looked to be fouled bursting into the box, and even though Antonio got a shot off, it was a surprise to see nothing given.
Soucek had an opening that he could only finish with a shot just wide, but as half-time went, the Hammers would definitely have felt the happier of the bunch. Their moods surely buoyed by just how angry Grealish was getting as he found his efforts continually thwarted by Coufal down the right.
As the second half started, optimism rose as Moyes?EUR(TM)s side came out with the same blend of attractive football and lung-busting graft that ensured Villa could never really settle into a rhythm. Six minutes into the half, they were rewarded.
Directly after Antonio had wasted a big opportunity with a poor shot, West Ham regained the ball from the Villa goal kick. Antonio received it, backing into his marker and holding the ball up excellently before laying off towards Benrahma. The Algerian?EUR(TM)s first-time pass through the defence was inch-perfect, Soucek running onto it, taking his time and then lashing it across goal and into the far corner and beyond the reach of Martinez in goal.
It shocked Villa, but only fired up the Hammers more. Soon after, the one goal lead became two, and the headlines started to be written.
West Ham again won possession in their own half and broke forward. Benrahma carried it with Lingard to his left and Antonio to his right. When he played right to Antonio, his pass appeared to take a little momentum out of the breakaway.
However Antonio had the vision to float a pass to the other side of the area, with Lingard doing brilliantly on the left hand side of the box to take it down then steady himself to shoot. The effort was on target, and the defender?EUR(TM)s desperate lunge only diverted the ball into the net quicker to give Jesse Lingard his perfect start and West Ham a two-goal lead.
Confidence flowed, Antonio nearly next on the scoresheet. First a chance blocked just in front of goal after Fredericks had tied Mings up in knots down the right before his cross.
Then a chance one-on-one, created by a quite superb Cresswell pass bending around the back of the defence. Antonio raced in one direction, Martinez came from the other, but the striker got there first and flicked it over the goalkeeper. To say Mings?EUR(TM)s goal-saving clearance was excellent does not do it justice, the defender flying back and throwing himself at the ball to volley it away inches from goal.
As 30 minutes left became 25, it was clear to see how West Ham settled into a deeper shape and gave Villa the impetus to try break them down. For most of that time, it seemed they would have no chance. But it only takes a moment to score a goal, and as Grealish switched out to the right, his first time pass through to Watkins was smashed beyond Fabianski and suddenly the momentum switched back to the home team with nine minutes to play.
With seven minutes to play, it was all over. Again, West Ham won the ball back inside their own half and set off forward. Soucek laid it off to Antonio who was given space as the centre backs dropped off. Without needing a second invitation, he ran at them and waited for the pressure. As one defender stepped out, he shifted it right to Lingard on the edge of the area.
His shot was neither powerful or aimed well, but it was enough to beat a surely disappointed Martinez. To his right, it was close enough to him to be considered right at him, however his wrists and hands were weak, and he could only parry it down into his own net to gift Lingard his second goal on debut and West Ham the cushion to see out the game once more.
Fornals was introduced for Fredericks and the football went exhibition, the passing slick and sharp around the Villa box as the side showed their dominance. One long passing move saw Coufal played down the right and his cross to the penalty spot should have been finished, Benrahma volleying over. It was a shame for him, his performance and energy levels had deserved his first goal.
It ended 3-1, West Ham back into fifth place and their new signing whisked away for media duties as the celebrations started on the pitch. A wonderful performance and a real marker of where this team?EUR(TM)s level might be. Three points away at Villa Park, a team on the up and having a great season themselves, maybe shows that the pessimism post-Liverpool was misplaced, and the optimism before it much more worthy.
The players were excellent, the manager spot on, the three points well deserved.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
He?EUR(TM)ll be annoyed he was beaten, and he was rarely troubled otherwise, but he did show good command of his box on the occasions Villa threw crosses in. He doesn?EUR(TM)t always have that, so it was a bonus to see.
Does Vladimir Coufal have bad games? You could just sense that he relished the challenge of defending Grealish, and he enjoyed the niggle that came along with it too. His attacking play was more limited than usual, the task of Grealish clear in his mind, and Fredericks gave him ample support too.
Assured defensively today, and whilst he overlapped down the left less, he almost gets a full extra point just for that pass to Antonio. It?EUR(TM)s worth watching the highlights for that.
There is a level of guile missing in his forward play that limits description as a winger, but any raised eyebrows over his selection have been shown just why he was picked. Up and down all game, his pace often helping stretch their defence and an option in behind, he supported Coufal excellently and there can barely have been a moment he wasn?EUR(TM)t right there as Grealish tried to square Coufal up. He is an option for a certain type of performance down the right, which is to Moyes?EUR(TM)s credit.
A couple of sloppy moments on the ball, and he did not look too comfortable against the Villa press, were a worry but as the game went on, he does the less attractive, less coveted parts of defending very well. Solid again.
You?EUR(TM)d have to say that Ogbonna had a quiet game. Watkins peeled off to Dawson?EUR(TM)s side and Villa were desperate to play down the left with Grealish. Comfortable defending as ever.
As Villa played left, left again and left again to get the ball to Grealish, Rice had less of his work in front of the defence to do, what with two right backs happy to defend down that side. Just comfortably did his job and supported the attacking players well.
What else can you say about this man? The aerial threat wasn?EUR(TM)t there so much today, but he managed to make bursts into the box often whilst still supporting the right side to defend Grealish and his pals. Arguably one of his better games on the ball and passing, he got through plenty defensive work and still managed to take four shots too. Giant of a midfielder on his current form.
He won?EUR(TM)t get the plaudits, but Benrahma was excellent tonight and a lot of good from Lingard?EUR(TM)s performance came from Benrahma?EUR(TM)s play, and vice versa. He is working so much harder to defend from the front than he did when he first arrived. The pass for Soucek?EUR(TM)s goal was perfect, in vision, direction and pace of the pass.
It?EUR(TM)s possibly harsh not to be handing out a 10/10 here. From the start of the game, he showed what he is all about. Neat and clever play in pockets of space between defence and midfield, Villa didn?EUR(TM)t get to grips with him all night. Six shots, some a little unnecessary, showed an eagerness to score and the little bits of luck he got with the goals were earned through his performance and perseverance. 13 months since his last Premier League start, he didn?EUR(TM)t look a step behind anyone, rather a few ahead. The early understanding between him and Benrahma added a dimension to our attack, and if they play like this together, Fornals and Bowen are competing for one spot.
A poor performance at Liverpool looked to be creeping into his game tonight with a couple bizarre efforts at goal and passes. But the hard work paid off, his strength and hold up play creating one goal, his direct running two others. He was heavily involved in all three goals and unlucky in the end not to score himself. This Antonio, playing like that, could lead West Ham to unexpected success.
(Replaced Fredericks, 84) With limited time, he slotted into the team like he?EUR(TM)d been on from the start, working hard and enthusiastically involved in some lovely late passing moves. 6 touches, 6 passes, 100% success.
(Replaced Benrahma, 87) Time enough for one touch.
(Replaced Lingard, 90) Not even time for a touch.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play. Also unused: Andriy Yarmolenko, Ademipo Odubeko
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Ryan Fredericks, Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Jesse Lingard, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Tomas Soucek 51 Jesse Lingard 56 Jesse Lingard 83 .
Booked: Aaron Cresswell 74 .
Sent off: None.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Douglas Luiz (Sanson 80), McGinn, El Ghazi (Traore 46), Barkley (Trezeguet 69), Grealish, Watkins.
Subs not used: Heaton, Engels, El Mohamady, Nakamba, Ramsey, Davis.
Goals: Watkins (81).
Booked: Luiz (70).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Andy Madley.
Man of the Match: Jesse Lingard.