Premier League – Villa ride luck to beat West Ham

A cruel deflected goal by James Milner helped Aston Villa scrape past West Ham in their Premiership tie at Upton Park.

FOOTBALL Aston Villa West Ham Carlton Cole Gareth Barry - 0

With Manchester United occupied in the Far East, Villa moved up to third in the league table after taking all three points from the Hammers.

The home side played the best football in a highly entertaining match, and were unlucky not to score on several occasions.

Yet the only goal of the game came from Villa, with Milner’s speculative effort ricocheting over Robert Green in the West Ham goal.

The game was played at a frenetic pace from the start, and though at the start Villa looked their normal, assured selves it was West Ham who impressed with their possession and passing.

That passing led to the first decent chance of the game, with Craig Bellamy racing past the Villa defence on seven minutes to get on the end of through ball by Scott Parker. He lashed a powerful shot that was well-scooped by Friedel, and five minutes later in an almost identical attack the American once again saved brilliantly from the same player.

Villa quickly came back, with Ashley Young performing brilliantly on the left wing. His dancing run opened space for Sidwell to go close on 23 minutes, and three minutes later it was the winger himself who had the best chance of the half. He evaded the defence and rounded Robert Green in the West Ham goal, only to see his angled shot to an open goal deflect off the far post.

That was as close as either side went before the break, but when the match restarted it was the home side that always looked like breaking the deadlock.

Within five minutes both Mark Noble and Matthew Upson had gone close with looping headers, but it was on the hour mark that they really should have gone ahead.

Jack Collison put in a swinging cross from the right that found Carlton Cole unmarked at the far post – but the striker was unable to do more than nod his header feebly over the bar from point-blank range.

It seemed like West Hame had blown the best chance they would get, yet four minutes later only a saving tackle from Martin Laursen and a superb block by Friedel prevented Cole from rectifying his mistake.

The Hammers smelt blood and penned Villa into their box for most of the next 10 minutes – yet the tables were cruelly turned when the visitors finally broke on the counter-attack.

James Milner ran up the left and into the box, but with nothing really on tried a speculative shot. It was well blocked by Lucas Neill, but ricocheted off his thigh into a spinning, looping arc that easily cleared Green’s head before diving down just beneath the bar.

West Ham still came back to try to secure the equaliser and an extended goalmouth scramble with five minutes left presented almost every one of their team with opportunities to score.

But it wasn’t to be. Villa closed out the match in professional style, and consigned the home side to a bitterly harsh defeat.

Toby Keel / Eurosport