Second half goals from Christian Benteke and Charles N’Zogbia earned Aston Villa three crucial points in its bid for Premier League survival. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
In what was a pretty dire contest throughout, Benteke’s penalty and N’Zogbia’s wonderful free kick were enough for Villa to secure a first league win since beating Liverpool in December, although the club faced a nervous closing after a late own goal by Ashley Westwood sent jitters throughout Villa Park.
Paul Lambert made three changes from the side that drew 3-3 with Everton last time out, with Jordan Bowery handed a first league start for the Villians, while there were recalls for Fabian Delph and Nathan Baker. Emanuel Pogatetz made a first start for West Ham, with Joe Cole also coming into Sam Allardyce’s starting XI.
A contender for miss of the season came after just two minutes when a powerful shot from Belgium striker Benteke was spilled by Hammers keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen straight into the path of Andreas Weimann. From the edge of the six yard box the young striker could only place his shot wide of the far post with the entire goal gaping.
Villa arguably shaded the opening period, but a Ron Vlaar half-volley from a corner aside, did not threaten Jaaskelainen’s throughout the opening period.
West Ham fared little better, with Mo Diame’s sliced shot which went well wide of the near post midway through the half the team's best contribution to the game.
The Hammers started the second with much more purpose and had a good claim for a penalty turned down after Ron Vlaar tussled with Andy Carroll. Referee Mark Clattenburg had an excellent view of the incident, but decided it was not worthy of a spot kick despite strong appeals from visiting side.
West Ham continued to be the superior side as the game reached the hour mark, with Matt Taylor and Cole causing several problems for the Villa defense with their crosses from wide positions.
The home side almost grabbed a goal against the run of play when Charles N’Zogbia’s left footed effort went narrowly wide of the far post after he cut in from the right. Seconds later it was the visiting side almost went ahead when Carroll had a powerful drive cleared off the line after he reacted quickest to a goalmouth scramble following a corner.
The first goal arrived in the 73rd minute after a clumsy foul by Mark Noble on the quick-footed N’Zogbia in the area gave Benteke the chance to open the scoring from the spot, and he did so with supreme calm as he coolly passed the ball into the net.
Five minutes late the points were in the bag for Villa as N’Zogbia curled home a wonderful free kick from 25 yards out. His left-footed effort beat the four man wall and was too good for Jaaskelainen as it nestled in the corner of the net.
West Ham grabbed a late consolation through an own goal from Westwood as he accidentally flicked Cole's cross past keeper Brad Guzan, but the home side held on to secure a vital win.
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