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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Rice inspires Hammers to dream of Champions League after 4-1 win at Villa Park


By Alessandro Schiavone at Villa Park


ASTON VILLA 1 v WEST HAM 4


A Declan Rice-inspired West Ham side did it again, this time to the detriment of Aston Villa, as they registered their fifth consecutive win in all competitions with an impressive 4-1 victory at Villa Park.

Unbeaten on their travels, victory at Villa Park sees West Ham move up to third in the Premier League table and level on points with Manchester City. And that’s no mean feat given the financial gulf between the two sides.


If there was a time, not too long ago, when the West Ham players and fans travelled around the country to fixtures like today’s more in hope than expectation, now it’s the complete opposite. Veni, Vidi, vici. They came, they saw, they won. Can anyone stop these red-hot Hammers?


West Ham were up and running after only seven minutes when ‘one of their own’ Ben Johnson cut inside on to his favoured left foot from the right to fire a low drilled effort beyond Emiliano Martinez’s outstretched arms.


Emiliano Buendia finally showed glimpses of his undoubted talent when he left Pablo Fornals in no man’s land to pull the ball back for Ollie Watkins who was lurking in the right place pulled the trigger with a composed finish. The ball was hit central, Lukasz Fabianski got a boot to it and should have kept it out.


But parity was short-lived for the hosts as superstar-in-the-making Declan Rice restored the Hammers lead from a long way out, guiding a low right-footed effort into the bottom corner. It was the second time that the Argentine international conceded on his right side.


Five minutes into the second period Ezri Konsa was given the marching orders after denying Bowen a clear goalscoring opportunity when through on goal.


But Aston Villa started to play better and get in their stride as every single player raised his game due to the numerical inferiority.


The tipping point of the game came when Fabianski tipped Watkins’ header onto the crossbar as West Ham got away with some static defending.


Minutes later, Martinez made a fine save on his near post to push away Rice’s direct free-kick but West Ham added a further two to turn the heat on the under-fire Dean Smith, who is not capable of arresting the slide and get the best out of his newly assembled squad.


In the 80th minute Fornals sealed the win when he stormed forward at full throttle to convert a follow-up from a tight angle after Bowen, who latched onto a headed ball forward, saw his effort parried by Martinez.


The tireless former Hull City winger then completed the trashing when he tapped Manuel Lanzini’s square pass into the net.


Home or away, West Ham have shown that they can hold their own against anybody. And if they play like today a top-four finish, Carabao Cup glory and triumph in the Europa League are certainly not beyond them.


Aston Villa


1 Emiliano Martinez- 2 Matthew Cash- 3 Matt Targett- 4 Ezri Konsa- 7 John McGinn- 10 Emiliano Buendia- 11 Ollie Watkins- 19 Marvelous Nakamba- 30 Kortney Hause- 31 Leon Bailey- 41 Jacob Ramsey


Bench: 12 Jed Steer, 5 Tyrone Mings, 16 Axel Tuanzebe- 18 Ashley Young- 21 Anwar El Ghazi- 33 Carney Chukwuemeka- 35 Cameron Archer – 39 Keinan Davis


West Ham United


1 Lukasz Fabianski- 3 Aaron Cresswell- 4 Kurt Zouma- 8 Pablo Fornals- 9 Michail Antonio- 9 Jarrod Bowen- 21 Angelo Ogbonna- 22 Said Benrahma- 28 Tomas Soucek- 31 Ben Johnson- 41 Declan Rice


Bench: 13 Alphonse Areola, 5 Vladimir Coufal, 7 Andriy Yarmolenko- 10 Manuel Lanzini- 11 Nikola Vlasic-15 Craig Dawson-16 Mark Noble- 23 Issa Diop- 26 Arthur Masuaku




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