Aston Villa put in perhaps their best performance under Remi Garde but there were no Christmas presents to be had against West Ham as they clawed their way back to 1-1 after going a goal down in the first-half.
Garde started the same team which could and perhaps should have snatched a win against Newcastle and after some initial nervousness they settled into control of the first-half. Alan Hutton was finding acres of space down the right and chipped a couple of crosses towards Rudy Gestede who came close on a couple of occasions, while Jordan Ayew was working tirelessly down the left.
Jordan Veretout was pulling the strings in the middle and West Ham looked on the ropes. Carlos Sanchez was forced off and replaced by Carles Gil and while the Colombian's defensive presence was occasionally missed, Villa looked well set to go on and dominate the match.
However there were a few warning signs that as Hutton was going up the field, West Ham were finding space in behind with a few attacks cutting in from the left. First Zarate drove in and Brad Guzan had to make a good low save, then Valencia's shot deflected into Kouyaté's path who nodded it onto the top of the bar.
Then the sucker punch in extra-time, as Aaron Cresswell found far too much space down the left and Hutton hesitated too long in closing him down. He unleashed a fierce shot which swerved past Guzan into the net and Villa were staring down the barrel as they went into the second-half.
After a customarily nervy start to the second-half, Villa got back to where they had left off and pushed West Ham back. Veretout unleashed a stinger of a shot from inside the box which was well saved by Adrian while the crosses kept flying in.
Finally Gestede showed he's more than just a big lump in the box, chasing down what seemed like a lost Ashley Westwood long ball into the box and forcing Ogbonna into clumsily looking to hold him back, going down only a touch more easily than a man of his stature might be expected to. Ayew looked worried as he stepped up to take the penalty but dispatched it calmly as Adrian went to ground too early.
Villa had half an hour to look for a winner but they just lacked the spark to break West Ham down as Slaven Bilic began making defensive substitutions. Hutton had a header cleared off the line, a couple of shots were flashed over. Adama Traoré replaced Veretout to great acclaim from the Villa Park faithful but though he dribbled excitingly he never found a final cross.
Despite the impressive support from the Holte End it was a little too tentative from Villa in the final ten minutes and extra-time and Westwood might even have been penalised when he seemed to move his hand towards the ball in the box. Instead the ball was finally cleared from a West Ham corner and the referee blew the final whistle. Villa had been the better team but didn't get the lucky break they desperately needed.
Let us know what your initial thoughts are! A disappointment or are we moving in the right direction?