Today, Aston Villa traveled to East London to face West Ham United at the London Stadium.
West Ham United started in a 4-2-3-1 set up with Alphonse Areola in goal, a back four of Thilo Kehrer on the right, Kurt Zouma and Nayef Aguerd in the middle and Emerson on the left. A double pivot of Thomas Soucek and skipper Declan Rice protected the defence, just ahead of them, Lucas Paqueta, in the middle of Said Benrahma and Jarrod Bowen on the flanks, and up front, former Villa man, Danny Ings.
Aston Villa made one change to the side that beat Crystal Palace 1-0 last week as the injured Boubacar Kamara made way for Leon Bailey to find his way back into the starting lineup. World Cup winner Emi Martinez started in goal behind a back four of Matty Cash on the right, Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings as centre backs and Alex Moreno on the left. A double pivot of Douglas Luiz and captain John McGinn sat in the middle of Jacob Ramsey and Emi Buendia on the left and right wing, and Leon Bailey sat just behind Ollie Watkins as a second striker.
Story Of The Game
West Ham were the first to pile on pressure as they had a few crosses headed away by Aston Villa’s centre backs Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa. A free kick given away by Emi Buendia was whipped in and put wide by Aguerd six minutes in. Twelve minutes in, Bowen took a diagonal ball from Aguerd in his stride and whipped a lovely cross into Said Benrahma who volleyed it over the bar. West Ham looked dangerous. Against the run of play, Aston Villa took the lead seventeen minutes in. A ball out wide from Douglas Luiz to Alex Moreno led to Moreno exploiting a narrow West Ham before unleashing a lovely cross into the box which met the head of Watkins who devastatingly put it past Alphonse Areola to make it six goals in seven games.
After taking the lead, perhaps undeservedly, Aston Villa started to grow into the game a bit more and were moving the ball a lot quicker putting West Ham under pressure, however the lead was cancelled out in the 26th minute by Said Benrahma. A burst of acceleration from Jarrod Bowen resulted in him winning a corner for West Ham. The corner came in, Martinez got a hand to it but not enough to clear any danger, the ball fell out to Paqueta who had a shot cleared off the line by Watkins before the ball fizzled out, and Paqueta was tripped by Bailey when chasing the loose ball. Clumsy from Bailey, and the penalty executed to perfection by Benrahma to equalise.
West Ham had the next half chance as Alex Moreno gave away a sloppy pass to Danny Ings who found Benrahma who let fly from around twenty five yards to try and find his second and put West Ham in front, however it ended up in the hands of Emi Martinez. Aston Villa went very close just before the break as Alex Moreno threaded a ball through to Jacob Ramsey who squared it across goal to Ollie Watkins who put a shot straight at Areola from point blank range. Villa should have been in front at half time. West Ham had the first chance of the second half. A beautiful long ball from Kurt Zouma found Benrahma who brought it down and let fly from just outside the box, however Martinez tipped it over the bar for a corner. Sixty four minutes in, Alex Moreno and Leon Bailey made way for Lucas Digne and Bertrand Traore. Just shy of the seventy minute mark, Lucas Paqueta was booked for a foul on Villa skipper John McGinn. Shortly after, Pablo Fornals replaced him.
With ten minutes to go, Emi Buendia and Matty Cash made way for Jhon Duran and Ashley Young. With five to go, Ollie Watkins was substituted for Calum Chambers, and former Villa man Danny Ings made way for Maxwel Cornet.
The full time whistle was sounded at the London Stadium and the points were shared. Definitely not the most thrilling game in the world, and a slightly disappointing result for Aston Villa. They'll be hoping to put things right next week at home to relegation threatened Bournemouth.
Man Of The Match - Said Benrahma
The man who was once heavily linked to Aston Villa, Said Benrahma was the thorn in their side today. Everything West Ham created seemed to go through him, and on another day he could have scored two or three. Sheer excellence from the Algerian. An honorable mention goes to Alex Moreno looked very impressive at times going forward for Aston Villa before being substituted for Lucas Digne.
Biggest Underperformer - Leon Bailey
A common trend in recent weeks is Leon Bailey underperforming for Aston Villa. He's been miles off the pace recently, and was disappointing today too, giving away a penalty and not looking threatening at all, and the fact that before the Crystal Palace game last week it came out that he was seen inhaling nitrous oxide through balloons, it hasn't gone down well with the fans. He needs to book his ideas up or else he could be part of Unai Emery's bomb squad this summer.
BY HARRY BATTERS - @HarryBatters