Aston Villa vs. West Ham United: Final Score 2-1, Villans hold on for crucial win

Michael Regan

Aston Villa took a 2-0 lead and then held on against West Ham to earn a priceless three points.

Aston Villa should have put themselves ahead almost immediately as Christian Benteke stepped inside to let fly at Jussi Jaaskelainen's goal, only for the Finn to spill the ball directly into the path of Weimann, but with the goal gaping and the keeper sprawled on the turf, he somehow contrived to put the ball wide in what was one of the misses of the season.

Soon afterwards, both teams club colours weren't the only claret on display after Nathan Baker clashed heads with Andy Carroll, requiring treatment to stop the blood flowing, but the youngster played on regardless. Aston Villa were just about edging the half, with West Ham offering very little, but it was no surprise to see both teams go in with the scores level at 0-0. The contest was turning into a dour affair, and it appeared certain that a scoreless draw was on the cards - as Hulk Hogan had predicted.

West Ham responded by switching to a 4-4-2 formation, and it appeared to work for a brief period, forcing a string of chances for the visitors. A couple of corners heralded danger for Villa, who have a rotten record at defending set pieces, but Ciaran Clark and Christian Benteke were able to deal with both. Paul Lambert responded with a chance of his own, bringing on Darren Bent and new signing Simon Dawkins.

Despite the change, it was almost the visitors who took the lead as Andy Carroll used his physicality and height to bring down a ball in the area, but saw his shot cleared off the line by Bent, of all people. Shortly afterwards, the home side, who were beginning to dominate again, had their breakthrough when Charles N'Zogbia was brought down by Mark Noble in the area. Benteke put the penalty away with characteristic coolness and West Ham were looking in trouble.

The visitors had to go for it, but the introduction of Carlton Cole did little - almost immediately, they were 2-0 behind and it was game over, as Winston Reid gave away a free-kick 25 yards out and Charles N'Zogbia stepped up to curl a fantastic effort into the corner of the net.

West Ham looked beaten, but they were given a faint hope on 88 minutes as Joe Cole's ball into the area was badly dealt with by Ashley Westwood, who somehow contrived to loop the ball over Brad Guzan and into the net. An embarrassing own goal for the youngster, and he gave West Ham a real chance of a victory in the last few minutes. The decision to award four minutes of added time did little to calm the home fans' nerves. A Joe Cole free-kick threatened to ruin Villa's day, but a good catch from Brad Guzan helped them to seal a priceless victory.

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