Aston Villa Versus West Ham United was Monday nights premiership evening game with West Ham having the opportunity to go to the dizzy heights of 3rd in the Premiership heights that they haven’t seen since 1985.
Villa newly promoted soon got the game underway.
Diop fouled Wesley within the first minute but Captain Grealish sent the free-kick in diagonally from midway inside the West Ham half. Haller headed clear. As Pellegrini said pre-match, the Frenchman’s defensive contribution should not be underestimated. Villa started fast, as you might have expected. Wesley closed down Fabianski and charged the ball down as the goalkeeper attempted to clear up field and it bounced away for a goal kick.
Moments later, Noble’s cross field pass flew out for a throw-in. West Ham looked like they needed to settle and quickly, clearly demonstrated by Pellegrini irate actions from the dug out, waving and screaming from the touch line which is not his normal cool style. West Ham went up a gear, playing Superb interplay involving Haller and Lanzini before the ball was played into space in front of Fredericks. He beats Taylor with one touch before cutting the ball back for Haller.
The Frenchman laid it off for Yarmolenko, whose first-time shot was blocked and spun wide off Engels.
The corner was headed clear at the near post. The first shot on target and it was from Noble the West Ham Captain whose first-time snapshot from a Haller lay-off was straight at Heaton.
One the 8th minute McGinn for Villa curled a superb strike into the top corner of the West Ham net from the corner of the penalty area, but not before he has fouled Ogbonna.
The Italian looked to be favourite to get to the ball before going to ground. It’s wasn’t immediately clear, but McGinn looked like had clipped his heel.
The home fans were not impressed with the decision spicing up the atmosphere further . They were denied a draw at Crystal Palace last time out when former Hammer Henri Lansbury saw his last-minute equaliser ruled out by referee Kevin Friend because of an alleged dive by Jack Grealish in the build-up. Grealish is already a legend in these parts and you can see why as he passes wide left, then sprints away from Rice to collect the return ball from Jota. He then delivered an inviting cross to the near post, which Wesley headed powerfully over the bar.
It was a decent chance for the Brazilian, and outstanding play from the Villa captain Grealish.
On 16 minutes West Ham fashioned another shooting opportunity for Yarmolenko. It was Lanzini, collecting from Felipe Anderson and spinning away from his man before spreading play right for Fredericks.
The full-back checked and found Yarmolenko, who ignored his runners and sent a dipping shot well wide from 25 yards. He held his hand up in apology to his teammates.
West Ham counter attacked after Jota’s shot was charged down by Rice returning from England duties, that saw Lanzini skipping past his man on the edge of his own box before finding Masuaku. It went forward to Felipe Anderson in space down the left flank. He looked up and picked out Haller, who heads narrowly wide of the near post.
A minute or so later, Lanzini and Felipe Anderson are involved again before the ball is lifted right to Yarmolenko, who looked up before curling a tame effort into the hands of Heaton.
A hush descends as West Ham build patiently, with the front seven all involved as the Hammers probe for an opening. Finally, the ball is worked to Rice, who takes a touch and saw his 25-yarder spin wide off a Villa defender.
Felipe Anderson took the corner short to Noble, then received the ball back and delivered a ball that curled behind most of his teammates.
It was knocked back to Masuaku, who elected to shoot and nearly found the top tier of the Holte End or possibly the M5 motorway!
Grealish joined Masuaku in the referee’s notebook after catching Felipe Anderson with a late sliding challenge. It wasn’t nasty, just ill-timed.
The free-kick was taken short, then worked to Felipe Anderson on the right. He backheeled inside for Noble, who was penalised for pulling back Grealish on the edge of the Villa penalty area.
Noble was booked, apparently for committing four fouls, if Mike Dean’s gesture with his fingers was anything to go by.
The game was still lively, but still goalless.
McGinn had a dig from all of 30 yards with his left foot, which is like a traction engine (see Partridge, Alan) when the Villa No7 is in the mood.
It was well hit, but straight at Fabianski and the goalkeeper could pat it down and collect with ease.
Villa conceded a corner, then Mings and El Ghazi had a proper pop at each other. They were forehead to forehead for a split-second.
It looked like Mings wasn’t happy with his winger allowing the ball to bounce over his head to Yarmolenko, who then found Noble, who won a corner off the defender.
The corner came to nothing though.
VAR had a quick look at it the El Ghazi/Mings stand off, but no further action was deemed appropriate. If El Ghazi had involved himself like that with an opposition player, I wonder if we’d have seen a different course of action?
Anyway, Villa were attacking and El Ghazi was on the receiving end this time as Fabianski flew out bravely and punched the ball clear before coming into contact with the winger.
It was Fabianski’s right forearm which caught the Dutchman, but not before he had punched the ball.
A minute of extra time was played that saw McGinn take a strike again
A superb first-time left-foot drive from the Scotland midfielder was turned aside by Fabianski, this time diving low to his right.
An outstanding couple of minutes from the Poland No1 goal keeper for West Ham.
A feisty, entertaining first half somehow ended goalless.
Aston Villa had the better chances, but Lukasz Fabianski stood up to anything the hosts could throw (or kick) at him, making saves from John McGinn and Jack Grealish.
At the other end, Andriy Yarmolenko and Mark Noble both tested Tom Heaton.
The two teams came out for the second half, Villa first, then the Hammers.
The home side kicked off the second half, attacking their beloved Holte End, while West Ham were kicking towards the end where their fans were situated in the lower corner of the Doug Ellis Stand.
It was a competitive start to the second half and McGinn looked to be in real pain after going in solidly to a challenge with Haller.
Seeing the replay, the Scot ploughed into the ball, then the Frenchman, came away unscathed.
West Ham continued their attack before Rice saw the Villa man on the turf and sportingly put the ball out. Applause reigned down from the home fans for that show of sportsmanship.
McGinn climbed slowly to his feet and he was ok to continue.
On 51 minutes Heaton made his best save of the night… from Neil Taylor his own team player!
Lanzini and Noble forced Grealish backwards inside his own penalty area and the home captain’s attempted clearance spun square off the boot of his opposite number.
Taylor attempted to cushion the header back to his goalkeeper, but got a bit too much on it and Heaton dived full left to make the diving save.
Just 2 minutes later it was Villa’s turn to attack . First Grealish played a one-two before stinging Fabianski’s palms with a rising cross-shot, then McGinn collected and screwed a low shot a yard wide of the near upright.
Shortly afterwards Felipe Anderson picked out the run of Masuaku. He looked up and cut back for Haller, who had his back to goal. The Frenchman laid off for Rice, who hit a fierce first-time effort. We will never know where it was headed, though, as Grealish flew out to make a fantastic flying block and the ball span away for a West Ham throw.
The chances kept flowing as McGinn clipped a fine ball over the West Ham defence for El Ghazi. He controlled on his chest and hit the volley, but it was close enough to Fabianski for the goalkeeper to dive to his right and hold on securely. It was a fantastic save.
62 minutes saw West Ham making the first change of the game as the subs board went up, Yarmolenkos evening was over as he was replaced by the Spainish winger Fornals It was like for like, with Fornals going out to the right flank.
Shortly afterwards Villa made their change, Ahmed Elmohamady came on for Jota on Villa’s right flank.
West Ham then went down to ten men on 67 minutes.
Mike Dean showed Arthur Masuaku a second yellow card for a foul on Elmohamady. It was similar to his first infringement, as the player knocked the ball around him and the left-back brought him down. West Ham fans in loud voice were furious, whilst Villa fans cheered cheerio cheerio cheerio waving as the player left the pitch.
Down to ten men the West Ham Manager Pellegrini decided to go defensive and try to hold on for a point, now his team is were to ten men. Zababelleta replaced Felipe and went on at left-back.
Despite being down to ten men Fredericks flew forward and made a superb run to latch onto a pass from Fornals. He only had one teammate to aim for in the box, Haller, but he picked him out with the low cross.
The Frenchman span and got a shot away with his left foot. Mings threw his body in the way and made the block.
Zabaleta got forward shortly afterwards down the left and saw his cross blocked. The ball rolled behind. Mike Dean gave a goal kick. Zabaleta thought it was a corner, quite strongly and left referee Mike Dean with no doubt of his thoughts, it was looking like Dean was once again going for his cards but had a change of mind.
Although the cards were soon out again as Mings went into the referee’s notebook, for catching Haller in the face with his arm as the two tussled for a high ball. It was lucky not to be a straight red card. Most referees would have given a straight red.
Fornals was heavily involved since he was introduced, the Spaniard clearly has quality, even after West Ham went down to ten. He collected again, the Villa defenders backed off, so he shot and the ball was deflected wide for a another West Ham corner.
Villa dealt with it, then Grealish passed the ball backwards to Taylor. Rice charges down the clearance, but it flew behind for a goal kick.
Villa then went for another change, Nakamba’s night was over. He was replaced by Douglas Luiz with 10 minutes to play and Villa seeking a win against ten men West Ham.
Five minutes left to play and Fornals delivered a free-kick. Villa cleared as far as Lanzini, who leant back and sliced his half-volley well wide to the joy of the Villa fans.
Dean Smith Villa Manager made his final substitution. Striker Keinan Davis on for right-back Guilbert, clearly attempting to gain the 3 points available with an extra man up front.
The Holte End held its breath as Villa built another attack on 89 minutes. Douglas Luiz crossed from the right and Grealish had sprung the offside trap, but the skipper could only volley wide on his left foot. It was a decent chance for a player of his ability and he should have scored to settle the game at the death.
He didn’t though and the game finished 0-0 with points be shared and West Ham missing the opportunity to go 3rd in the Premier league.
In all truth the battle of the clarets turned out to be a damp squib!