Last weekend, Aston Villa played Everton in a dour, defensive style that made most everyone who watched it angry. Before that, however, they had played two gorgeous matches against Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion. There was some hope, with Gabby Agbonlahor returning to the lineup, that the club could get back to being watchable against West Ham United today. Of course, there would be the problem of overcoming West Ham's propensity of playing narcolepsy-inducing football.
When the match kicked off, it quickly became apparent that West Ham were out for blood and also that Aston Villa had little interest in stopping them. In the first half, the Hammers consistently exploited the defensive weakness of Villa's left side, where the midfield-defense combo of Leandro Bacuna and Matthew Lowton seemed incapable of stopping anything. Depsite holding the edge in possession, Aston Villa were clearly playing the half on their heels and West Ham looked the better club. Somehow, though, it went into the half scoreless.
17 seconds into the second half, however, and then 2 minutes and 40 seconds later, this happened:
And that turned out to be all that West Ham would need. Kevin Nolan was the unlikely hero, shredding Villa's defense (and Fabian Delph) to secure a lead that would not be threatened for the rest of the match.
There was one bright spot: Marc Albrighton came on in the second half and showed precisely why he should be getting regular starts. He added a spark that the club had been missing, making precise crosses and even taking a few great shots. His presence made it seem as if Aston Villa could salvage something from the match, but the rest of the squad seemed disinterested. Christian Benteke had numerous chances (5 or 6, by my count) that were fantastic, and was able to convert none of them.
It was one of Aston Villa's worst performances in a season loaded with bad performances. Let's just hope something happens on Tuesday at Cardiff City, which is now looking like a must-win match.