One for purists and those of a more trashy persuasion, this had the lot. Goals, tackles, tips, kicks, feints and fouls. There was also an intriguing interweaving of tactics that could have ended anyway, but did so in West Ham’s favor, but only after Ollie Watkins had an equalizer ruled out by VAR for offside in extra time. .
One goal early in each half from Angelo Ogbonna and Jarrod Bowen was enough to beat West Ham past Aston Villa and another dominant performance from Jack Grealish. His virtuoso goal was ultimately unimportant, but it might have been different if Watkins had scored a 74th-minute penalty for the visitors.
The pre-match dispatches were mainly concerned with Michail Antonio’s return to West Ham XI after three games due to injury. It wasn’t a straightforward call after Sebastien Haller played some of his best football games for the club in the win over Sheffield United. But Antonio’s physicality, pace, and determination can put jeepers on any side and it showed in the first few moments here.
His training in the box and his overall presence hidden over Ezri Konsa’s shoulder scared the visitors and in the first minute a last minute block from Matt Targett was needed to prevent a low shot from Tomas Soucek.
A corner followed and West Ham took the lead, Bowen drifting a high, slow cross to the back post where Angelo Ogbonna had plenty of time to pick his spot and bounce a header past Emiliano Martínez.
Villa’s defense looked ominous. They were in tatters, looked intimidated and West Ham’s straightforward play looked ready to punish them every time they crossed the halfway line.
Villa, however, weathered the storm and West Ham’s penetrating play went blind. Suddenly, it was the visitors who held the ball. For 20 minutes, only the possession stats changed, but the odds began to show.
Grealish, at first, had been largely engaged in a fight with Vladimir Coufal to see who could shoot the cutest foul of the other. In the 25th minute, however, the Villa captain exploded into life.
The move started with Matty Cash on the halfway line, the right-back leading a low cross into Grealish with his back on goal. Instead of taking a touch, however, Grealish took the opportunity to slash the ball and himself around Coufal and into acres of space in midfield.
He carried the goal, the West Ham defenders retreated and it was a mistake; a fierce strike from right to left took a small deflection and passed Lukasz Fabianski.
Villa had two more decent chances before the break, with Watkins stabbing widely after a nice pass and a smart effort from Conor Hourihane on a free kick going right next to it. This prompted David Moyes to jump into action with Antonio at halftime for Haller and Said Benrahma replacing Arthur Masuaku.
Playing the adventurous Algerian from the back was a bold move, but it paid off in seconds. Taking Bowen’s ball on a turn-over just after kick-off, Benrahma cut inside from the left to make a cross into the box. Bowen was there to meet him and his pricked head went inside the far post.
Back, the Villa came back. Aaron Cresswell had to block a low shot from McGinn right after the goal. Trézéguet could not believe his eyes when Fabianski stopped a point blank shot after a good job from Watkins.
In the 74th minute, Trézéguet won a penalty for Watkins after the winger collapsed after a shirt pull from Declan Rice. Watkins stepped up and smashed his kick against the bar.