The three moments that defined Aston Villa’s defeat to West Ham at Villa Park...
#3: Missed first half chances
Villa didn’t start the game in the best fashion and the level of performance rarely improved over the course of the 90 minutes. West Ham pressed high up the pitch, were first to every ball, and to put it simply, out worked Villa.
Jack Grealish was well marshaled by the away defence, in particular, Vladimir Coufal, and the home side couldn’t get themselves going.
However, despite not being fully at it, Villa had arguably the better chances in the first half. On 26 minutes, Ollie Watkins engineered some space in the box and curled a lovely effort just off the outside of the post.
Not long after whilst unmarked in the area, Ross Barkley dragged an effort wide.
Given Villa’s strong record when taking the lead this season, the game might have had a different outcome had Villa gone into the half-time break ahead.
Their failure to capitalize on these first half chances would ultimately prove costly.
#2: Quick fire hammer drop
Having looked sluggish during the first half, Villa actually started the second half reasonably well, getting themselves on the front foot and having more possession in the visitors defensive third.
Six minutes into the half, West Ham took the lead through Tomas Soucek after winning the ball far too easily high up the pitch.
Whilst always disappointing to fall behind, there was plenty of time to get back into the game.
That task was made much harder though when just five minutes later, West Ham doubled their lead, with debutant, Jessie Lingard, scoring after a quickfire counter attack where Villa were outnumbered at the back.
Conceding two goals in such a quick burst seemed to knock the stuffing out of an already lethargic looking Villa side, and it looked as if the game was dead and buried.
#1: A glimmer of hope…dashed immediately
As John McGinn said in a post-match interview, it took Villa going 2-0 down before they livened up.
Although two behind, there was still a chance to grab a point from this game as pulling one back could easily rattle West Ham’s nerves.
Villa managed to do that with just under ten minutes to go, with Watkins continuing his recent goal scoring streak after brilliantly finishing from Grealish’s pinpoint pass.
The stage was set for Villa to pepper the West Ham back-line in search for a barely deserved equaliser.
Just two minutes after getting back in the game, Villa conceded again and it was game over.
After surrendering possession in a very sloppy manner, West Ham broke up the pitch with another fast-paced counter where Lingard scored his second of the night, finishing off from Michail Antonio’s well weighted pass.
Emi Martinez has been superb all season, but he will no doubt be disappointed with how he managed to let Lingard’s second strike squeeze past him – in all honestly a goalkeeper of his ability will probably feel he should have kept his first effort out as well. Any hopes of a comeback were now well and truly over.
A win would have seen Villa leap-frog West Ham on goal difference into 5th with two games in hand on the Hammers, so the players will have trudged off the Villa Park pitch feeling this was a real missed opportunity.
Villa have now played 5 games in 15 days on the back of a two week enforced break from training due to the Covid-19 outbreak at the start of January and some of the players look like they are really feeling the effects of that right now.
The next game against Arsenal is a chance to put right the disappointment of this game, but it might require Dean Smith to freshen up the starting line-up in order to avoid another tired display from his team.