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  • By Charlie Stong at The London Stadium

Ukraine's Yarmolenko strikes in 2-1 West Ham win over Aston Villa to keep alive top-four hopes


West Ham United 2

Aston Villa 1


Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko came off the bench to light up an otherwise dour game and reignite West Ham’s top four aspirations in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at the London Stadium today. Sometimes, things are just meant to be.


Yarmolenko’s 70th-minute strike, a wonderful piece of skill in which he controlled the ball inside the box with his right foot, and poked past Emiliano Martinez with his left – all in one movement – was written in the stars.


He pointed to the heavens and was brought to tears for his country folk in celebration.


Pablo Fornals then added a second with eight minutes left, and the Hammers can still harbour top-four hopes, despite the fact they have now played four more games than Arsenal – who they leapfrogged, at least temporarily, with this win.


The first half was a drab affair. Said Benrahma made space for a shot in the area after good footwork early on, but his effort was easily held by Martinez


Fornals then really should have done better shortly afterwards, shooting wide when under no pressure outside the Villa box.


At the other end Ollie Watkins saw a shot from just inside the area blocked.


And Villa almost opened the scoring after 20 minutes. Good footwork by Jacob Ramsey inside the West Ham area saw the ball eventually fall to the feet of Philippe Coutinho, but his back flick was easily held by Lukasz Fabianski.


West Ham then had a decent spell of possession which led to a great chance for Tomas Soucek, whose header went just wide of the post with Martinez struggling to get there.


But the first half was a poor affair and neither side deserved the lead at the break.


The second period began in similar fashion – it was bitty, with plenty of stoppages for injuries.


The best chance of the game to that point came on 55 minutes. Following a Villa corner from the left, the ball eventually fell to the feet of Danny Ings, who swivelled and shot, drawing a fantastic save from Fabianski, who pushed the ball on to the post.


That appeared to spark the game into life at last as West Ham soon had an even better chance to make it 1-0.


Kurt Zouma’s header from a corner was well saved by Martinez, and Craig Dawson inexplicably headed the rebound over when faced with an open goal from just two yards out.


Dawson jumped and got under the ball, when he could have waited for it to fall on to his head and nod home.


After 70 minutes Benrahma cut inside and played a ball to Yarmolenko who opened the scoring in majestic fashion – and not a single person in the crowd, away fans included, would have denied him his moment.


From there was only going to be one winner. Declan Rice carried the ball deep into Villa territory and found Benrahma. He in turn found the onrushing Fornals, who cracked his shot past Martinez – 2-0 and game over.


Or so West Ham thought, as there was still time for Ramsey to curl a 25-yaerder past Fabianski as the clocked ticked down to 90 minutes, but the Hammers held on for victory.


Teams:

West Ham: Fabianski, Cresswell (Fredericks, 57), Zouma, Fornals, Antonio (Yarmolenko, 52), Lanzini, Dawson, Benrahma, Soucek, Johnson, Rice

Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Mings, Luiz (Buendia, 79), McGinn, Watkins, Chambers, Ings (Bailey, 69), Coutinho, Digne (Young, 10), Ramsey

Referee: Jarred Gillett

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