West Ham vs Aston Villa – Report

10 man Aston Villa couldn’t quite hold on against a West Ham side with problems of their own. Both Carlton Cole and Herita Ilunga had to be subbed off during the first half because of injury. After these setbacks, it just got better and better for Zola and his men. A Mark Noble penalty was cancelled out by a stunning Ashley Young strike but Zavon Hines secured the win in extra time.

West Ham’s terrible start to the season had Zola making excuses for his players after every game but last night he had a lot to be happy about as he saw his team move up the table to 16th. Martin O’neill, however saw little damage done as far as the table is concerned but failure to kill the game off after a strong first half spell left him dissapointed. Zola will be pleased with how the defence played especially when the important Herita Ilunga had to be subbed off early on. Since current Aston Villa defender James Collins left the Hammers in the summer, defensive frailties have been a major problem for Zola’s West Ham. None of those problems could be seen last night with Zola dropping Spector and Tomkins to the bench giving Julien Faubert and Manuel Da Costa a chance to prove their worth. However, Jonathon Spector’s demotion to the bench lasted just a few minutes when Herita Ilunga went down, clutching his hamstring. It seems that both Carlton Cole’s and Herita Ilunga’s injuries are not as bad as first feared and both could feature against Everton at Upton Park on Saturday. After this early setback, Aston Villa began to take control with the pace of Agbonlahor and Ashley Young troubling the defence. It seemed that losing Ilunga had unsettled the Hammers with Aston Villa gaining momentum. However, Aston Villa’s best chance was a long range volleyed effort from Stiliyan Petrov. His strike gave Green little time to react but the England No1 managed to tip the ball over for a corner. With half-time approaching, Aston Villa’s failure to capitilize on their dominance came back to bite them. The authorative Scott Parker on his return from suspension gave mexican international Guille Franco the ball, and the otherwise useless forward put the young replacement through only to be fouled by Habib Beye. Some referee critics have suggested that this decision was dubious but it is fairly obvious that Beye fouled the youngster and Mark Noble happily smashed the penalty into the roof of the net.

Mark Noble rifled his spot kick into the roof of the net to give West Ham the lead.

Straight after the break the referee gave a penalty to Aston Villa. Again, many suggesting that it was a very dubious decision. However, I think that the referee had no choice but to give a penalty. It was not Manuel Da Costa’s fault and probably looking back on the decision the referee will admit that he may have got it wrong but in that situation all he can see is Da Costa with his knee jammed into James Collins’ knee so I think that the penalty decision was understandably given. Perhaps the fact that Robert Green dived low to his left to save Ashley Young’s penalty makes it easier to see both sides of the story! It was not all joy for West Ham and likewise it was not all sorrow for Ashley Young. His shot from just inside the touchline started in line with the corner flag and curled into the net leaving England’s No1 with no chance. It does beg the question, do footballs need to be so technologically advanced? The vigorous response from the West Ham players fired up the fans and Habib Beye’s second yellow card for Haibib Beye for a fooul on Jonathon Spector. Despite the vigourous response, no chances of note were created until Scott Parker and Zavon Hines linked up in the final seconds of stoppage time. Fabio Capello must be considering a Scott Parker recall after his sensational performance and as he wriggled his way through the Aston Villa defence he must have been thinking the same. He passed to Zavon Hines and it seemed the ball was trapped under his foot but with incredible maturity and confidence he pushed the ball out of his feet and placed it inbetween the defenders and high into the net, the crowd went wild! I had to get a cliché in there somewhere!
The goal that won it for the Hammers!
Robert Green: 9 (if he had saved Young’s cross/shot it would have been a 10, easily)
Julien Faubert: 7 (prefer him at right back than Jonathon Spector due to his attacking potential but had a quite game but crucially did nothing wrong)
Manuel Da Costa: 8 (surprisingly, very impressive and penalty given against him not his fault, very experienced performance, have we got a good defence again?)
Matthew Upson: 8 (assured as ever and showed Capello why he should be starting rather than Rio)
Herita Ilunga: – (Unfortunate to be injured, praying that he will be available tomorow)
Collison: 7 (good but wasn’t involved as much as he could have been)
Parker: 9 (created the winning goal but was outstanding for the whole game as well)
Noble: 8 (played well and scored his penalty, commanded the midfield with Parker)
Behrami: 6 (tried incredibly hard but nothing went his way)
Cole: – (pray that he is available for Sunday because he needs to start with Hines, Franco is useless)
Franco: 6 (useless apart from pass that lead to penalty but did nothing to enhance his credentials, should not start on Sunday if Cole is fit) 
SUBS: (the ones that played for more than a minute)
Jonathon Spector: 7 (played well but has to improve in all areas if he wants to start every week)
Zavon Hines: 10 (again showing Zola why he should start. Not only scoring a well taken goal but also making runs, confusing the defence and making Franco look like a half decent player, should start on Sunday with Carlton Cole if the latter is fit)

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