Aston Villa were back in action today for their third game in eight days and second on the road in 4. This time it was a trip down south to the capital to take on David Moyes and his top four chasing West Ham and the London Stadium.
Many supporters anticipated changes due to the schedule this past week but Steven Gerrard opted to start with the same team that started in the win against Leeds United on Thursday night.
The Hammers started the brighter of the two teams and went close when Said Benrahma had a shot on goal but Emi Martinez was equal to the effort. Soon after Pablo Fornals sent his effort just wide of the post from 20 yards out.
The hosts were having most of the early possession but Villa looked dangerous when they were able to get on the ball. Jacob Ramsey burst into the box before squaring to Phillipe Coutinho, the loanee narrowly failed to score through a flicked effort.
There wasn’t much difference between the two sides although the presence of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek gave the home side the edge.
Late in the first half, Douglas Luiz was kicked in the face through a high boot from Manuel Lanzini. After the game, Gerrard confirmed that the Brazilian would need facial reconfiguration.
Villa came close early in the second period when Łukasz Fabiański tipped Danny Ings’ effort onto the post but it was the hosts who would soon take the lead after a build of pressure on the Villa goal.
Substitute Andriy Yarmolenko took advantage of the time afforded him by Villa’s defence after receiving Benrahma’s pass to turn, shoot and score in the bottom corner.
West Ham paid a lovely gesture when the stadium PA announced “a goal for West Ham and Ukraine”.
With eight minutes remaining, the Hammers doubled their lead. Rice broke out from his own half and found Benrahma, who laid the ball off to Fornals who sent a low shot past Martinez.
Villa did get themselves back in the game late on when Emi Buendia squared for Jacob Ramsey who cooly slotted his sixth goal of the season into the back of the net.
- Villa looked tired and lacklustre at times. Both sides had played three times in the past week but the hosts looked more prepared and fitter. This is something, I am sure, Gerrard will continue to work on with this group of players.
- I felt the referee was a little out of his depth. Both sides will have felt decisions went against them at times.
- The physical presence, as I previously mentioned was probably the difference. It is no secret that Villa wants a bulldozing midfielder and we lacked that today.
- Our never say die attitude was impressive. Too many times in the past we have rolled over and died when conceeding goals but we upped the ante and got ourselves back into the game.
- We went toe to toe with a side that is much more organised and ahead of us right now. It was clear to see what we lacked and what we need and we shouldn’t be too downhearted about today’s performance.
Aston Villa v Arsenal
Saturday, 19th March – 12.30 (GMT)
Villa Park, Birmingham