West Ham ease to win against 10-man Villa
PUBLISHED: 22:04 02 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:03 03 February 2016
PA/Press Association Images
Jordan Ayew is sent off for an elbow as West Ham grab the points at Upton Park
West Ham United 2 Aston Villa 0
It all went to form at Upton Park, where high-flying West Ham United sent basement boys Aston Villa stumbling yet another step towards the relegation trap door, thanks to second-half goals from Michail Antonio and Cheikhou Kouyaté.
Villa were forced to play out a full 73 minutes with 10 men, after Jordan Ayew’s inexplicable elbow on Aaron Cresswell handed the initiative to Slaven Bilić’s boys.
The Ghana international paid a huge price for that moment of madness as Antonio’s third goal for the Hammers since his £7m arrival from Nottingham Forest put West Ham on the road to victory as the hour-mark approached and then Kouyaté’s late effort ensured that Villa left this clash of the claret and blues empty-handed.
There had been no place in the home line-up for Fenerbahce’s on-loan, Nigerian striker, Emmanuel Emenike, who still awaits international clearance but, following Saturday’s goalless FA Cup fourth round draw at Liverpool, Bilić still made four changes to his sixth-placed side as he welcomed back Antonio, James Collins, Adrian and Mark Noble in place of Angelo Ogbonna plus substitutes Darren Randolph, Victor Moses and Pedro Obiang.
These two sides had scrapped out a 1-1 draw at Villa Park on Boxing Day, but there was nothing messy about the opening exchanges as Dimitri Payet quickly scorched into the opposing area before running out of grass, while the unpunished Antonio escaped vociferous visiting Villa claims for a handball and then Carles Gil drilled a low 20-yarder at the crouching Adrian.
Rock-bottom Villa had been dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester City at the weekend and, following his side’s forlorn four-goal defeat, Garde also made a quartet of changes to his team, who kicked off 10 points adrift of safety. Joleon Lescott, Mark Bunn, Jores Okore and Gabriel Agbonlahor came in for Ashley Westwood, while Brad Guzan, Ciaran Clark and Scott Sinclair returned to the bench.
Having forced a quartet of early corners, too, Garde’s side were certainly giving a good early account of themselves.
But that all went out of the window on 17 minutes, when Ayew senselessly pressed the self-destruct button for the Midlanders, cynically elbowing Cresswell in the face as the Hammers left-back prepared to defend a throw-in.
That left referee Jon Moss with simply no option but to pluck an inevitable red card from his pocket and Villa with no choice but to step back onto the back foot, while Kouyaté wasted no time curling an 18-yarder into Bunn’s clutches.
The heavily-bandaged James Tomkins was next to try his luck with a blistering volley that was flying wide before the stooping Enner Valencia diverted it over the bar from just a couple of yards and then Kouyaté scuffed wide before Antonio followed the same path.
Former Villa defender Collins then launched a long-ranger into his old fans packed into the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand, before Tomkins again volleyed wide as both teams played out proceedings in the visitors’ half.
Then, as the interval neared, Valencia picked himself up from a crude body-check to send a 30-yard free-kick bouncing just a foot wide of Bunn’s right-hand post to leave it goalless at the break.
Just after the restart, Antonio volleyed wide after Collins and Kouyaté failed to convert and, as Villa tried to embark on a rare raid upfield, Alex Song was booked for tugging back Gil.
Suddenly, there was new-found East End energy as Micah Richards hooked Collins header off the line and then Payet’s deep corner found Noble, whose crisp, 18-yard volley was fisted away by Bunn to deny the Hammers’ skipper a Goal-of-the-Season contender.
Payet also sent an angled free-kick onto the side of Bunn’s right-hand post to signal that a home goal was not too far away.
Sure enough, on 57 minutes, the deadlock was, indeed broken, when Noble collected from Cresswell on the half-way line before launching an angled cross towards the escaping Antonio, who steered a 12-yard header across the face of the flat-footed Bunn, into the far corner.
Having eased the pressure, Bilić’s battlers went in search of a second as Tomkins again fired high and wide before Song was off target, too.
The Kung-Fu kicking Kouyaté could not force home Winston Reid’s downward header ahead of Collins seeing yellow for upending Richards, while Noble quickly followed him into the book for sliding through Okore.
Former West Ham starlet Kieran Richardson then replaced Gil, while Sinclair came on for Agbonlahor but the Hammers still pressed for a second as Cresswell scorched one across the face of goal and Payet saw the besieged Bunn claim his 18-yard curler.
With five minutes remaining, West Ham snuffed out any slim Villa hopes of a point, when Song cleared a corner to Payet, who sent Valencia running at the thin yellow line of the visitors push-up defence and, when he unselfishly released Kouyaté, the Senegalese steamroller kept his nerve to calmly slot the ball past the helplessly exposed Bunn.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Tomkins, Cresswell, Reid, Collins, Song, Kouyate, Noble, Antonio (Jelavić 86), Payet, Valencia (Moses 86). Unused subs: Randolph, Obiang, O’Brien, Oxford, Cullen.
VILLA: Bunn, Bacuna, Okore, Richards, Lescott, Veretout, Gil (Richardson 71) Cissokho, Gana-Gueye, Ayew, Agbonlahor. Unused subs: Guzan, Clark, Sinclair, Lyden, Grealish, Mason.
Booked:Song (48), Collins (67), Noble (69).
Sent-Off: Ayew (17)
Referee: Jon Moss.