West Ham survive penalty and last minute drama to beat Aston Villa and climb to fifth
West Ham 2 Aston Villa 1
Any more of this from the Hammers and people will talk.
David Moyes' men are up to fifth in the Premier League table after striking blows early in each half through Angelo Ogbonna and Jarrod Bowen.
But in an eventful and enthralling contest, the Irons undoubtedly got lucky. Villa deserved something for their endeavours, and should have done.
Star striker Ollie Watkins crashed a 75th minute penalty against the crossbar and then had a stoppage-time 'goal' ruled out for offside – thanks to VAR intervention.
The East Londoners won’t care too much about that, however, and will be delighted that their new-found resilience brought them the win.
The Irons were very much second best in the first half in particular, despite the early advantage, and it was the inspired half-time substitution of ex-Brentford playmaker Said Benrahma which got the Hammers on the front foot.
They went into this Monday night clash on a run of just one defeat in six – that one being a narrow loss at Liverpool - and they led with their fastest Premier League goal since November 2016, according to statistics offered up by the people who know about these sort of things.
Ogbonna scored it after rising highest at the far post to nod in Jarrod Bowen’s inswinging corner after one minute and 50 seconds – his first of the season.
The opening goal might have come even quicker, as the corner was the result of a powerful shot inside the box from Tomas Soucek being deflected wide.
But any notion that this would be a banker home win soon dissipated, as Villa seized control – demonstrating the confidence oozing though the ranks since that astonishing 7-2 rout of Liverpool.
Former Brentford defender Ezri Konsa landed a header on the roof of the net – a cross being supplied by ex-Fulham loan player Matt Targett - and Lukasz Fabianski had to fling himself to his right to palm away a Conor Hourihane free-kick.
Then came a Villa equaliser on 25 minutes and it was the irrepressible Jack Grealish who struck it.
The Villa playmaker collected the ball in midfield before tearing at the heart of a retreating defence and unleashing a shot which took a deflection off the boot of Ogbonna to take it beyond Fabianski’s despairing dive.
Watkins very nearly had Villa ahead 12 minutes later, clipping just wide after playing a one-two with Hourihane, and the Irishman curled another free-kick into the side-netting as the Hammers felt the heat.
Moyes badly needed to change the narrative and a double substitution at the break paid instant dividends, when Said Benrahma – on for an anonymous Arthur Masuaku – chipped up for Bowen to flick past Emiliano Martinez with a deft header. This one came barely 45 seconds after the restart.
The frustration got to Villa, with John Terry yellow-carded by ref Peter Bankes for some off-field verbals, as was a member of the Hammers backroom staff.
Grealish and Watkins then set up John McGinn in a lightning counter-attack but Fabianski thrust up a hand to deny the Scot, who scuffed his close-range shot.
Villa continued to press and a cross into the box led to Declan Rice’s slight tug on Trezeguet being deemed sufficient for a penalty.
Watkins has an iffy record from the spot, having now fluffed four of his last six, as he crashed the penalty onto the top of the bar.
That appeared to be that, but there was to be one more moment of pain for the visitors. Watkins seemed to have secured a point when he turned in a cross from the left, but an outstretched arm was just ahead of the last defender, according to Stockley Park.
It was definitely a good night for the Hammers.
West Ham: Fabianski – Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell – Coufal, Rice, Soucek, Masuaku (Benrahma h/t) – Bowen (Noble 79), Fornals – Antonio (Haller h/t). Subs not used: Randolph, Lanzini, Diop, Johnson