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West Ham United 1, Aston Villa 1: VILLA ARE SAFE!

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Villa’s great escape is complete!

West Ham United v Aston Villa - Premier League
Jack Grealish of Aston Villa celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Aston Villa at London Stadium on July 26, 2020 in London, England.
Photo by Matt Dunham/Pool via Getty Images

An 84th-minute goal from Villa captain Jack Grealish was enough to overcome a freak West Ham United equalizer and secure Villa’s shock survival Sunday at the London Stadium in a 1–1 draw.

Given Arsenal’s day-long lead over Watford and despite Bournemouth winning at Everton, a 0–0 draw looked like it would be enough — and for 80-plus minutes, it looked like it could be headed that way. But when the Villa captain fired home, it looked like the Villans could comfortably see out a result and secure their Premier League status.

Andrei Yarmolenko, though — by way of a freak deflection off Grealish’s boot — had other ideas, equalizing two minutes later and setting up a nervy finish.

Villa had great chances to go ahead either side of halftime, but couldn’t convert to take the lead. They worked a chance for Grealish on 44 minutes through a Conor Hourihane back-heel, but the Villa skipper’s shot was hit right at Łukasz Fabiański; after the break, Mbwana Samatta had two chances a minute apart he couldn’t connect on, the second of which ran through to John McGinn, who offered a weak effort that never got to the goalkeeper.

Dean Smith’s men kept the pressure up, winning a couple set piece chances, the best of which came from a free kick on the edge of the area (near the touch-line) on 51 minutes. Hourihane lifted a ball over the West Ham defenders, but Samatta couldn’t direct it down and headed well over the bar.

Great build-up play created a chance in the 82nd minute, when Grealish released the substitute Keinan Davis down the left. The striker’s cross — or was it a shot? — teased itself across the goalmouth, but no Villan arrived to meet it. Villa were finally rewarded in the 84th minute with Grealish’s goal, before Yarmolenko’s equalizer tightened the nerves two minutes later.