Aston Villa grabbed another point toward their top-half push with a slightly below-par performance against West Ham United on Sunday afternoon. Drawing 1-1 at the London Stadium, Unai Emery’s side were often exposed by the hosts’ wide players and could have easily lost had West Ham been more clinical. It was that man Ollie Watkins who netted yet another goal to help claim a draw on the road, though, as he scored a terrific first-half header. The Hammers pegged one back from the penalty spot shortly after, before quite the stalemate in the second half to round things off.
The hosts started the game on the front foot with a couple of big chances, handing Villa, who were looking pedestrian, a huge wake-up call. The first opportunity came to Nayef Aguerd as Declan Rice whipped in a wicked free-kick, but the Moroccan couldn’t get it out of his feet. Just a few minutes later, Algerian winger Said Benrahama had an even better opportunity as he volleyed a Jarrod Bowen cross, but his effort sailed over the bar.
Despite offering nothing beforehand, Villa were actually the side to break the deadlock in the 17th minute as West Ham went to sleep defensively. Allowing left-back Alex Moreno far too much time and space, the Spaniard curled in a beautiful delivery and it was met brilliantly by Watkins. Netting his sixth goal in his last seven Premier League appearances, the forward headed the ball into the ground and past a helpless Alphonse Areola.
It wasn’t long until West Ham had a goal of their own, though, as referee Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot after Leon Bailey softly nudged Lucas Paqueta to the ground. Watkins had done really well to make a clearance off the line from Paqueta’s effort a few seconds earlier but The Hammers converted from the spot through Said Benrahma, leveling the score at 1-1. It was a soft penalty but not enough for VAR to intervene, the officials ruled.
The Lions really should’ve regained their lead just before half time as Watkins missed a sitter for what could’ve been his second of the game. John McGinn progressed well through the middle, Moreno found Jacob Ramsey on the overlap and it was cut back to Watkins, but he somehow hit it straight at Areola from five yards out. It looked harder to miss than score, quite frankly. Villa did well to silence the home crowd with some patient build-up play before the break, though, as you could hear a pin drop at the London Stadium.
David Moyes’ side were the quicker out of the blocks for the start of the second period as Paqueta managed to put in a decent delivery towards the far post, where Benrahma was waiting. Left completely unmarked by Matty Cash, the Algerian swung at it but couldn’t get enough power behind the shot. Just like the opening minutes of the entire game, this was another wake-up call for Villa, who managed to control possession for a long while. West Ham looked dangerous on the counter attack but - even if Cash kept getting caught out by Benrahma - Emery’s men were able to stop the hosts from getting a second goal.
There was a big penalty call for The Villans as the clock struck 72 minutes, with Emiliano Buendia brought down by a clumsy Declan Rice. It appeared that The Hammers’ skipper went through the back of Buendia, but it was decided after a VAR check that there was no clear and obvious error. The Irons showed a bit more energy in the closing stages once again, with Benrahma having a couple more close-range efforts blocked. Ashley Young, who replaced a struggling Cash, took to the pace of the game quickly to get across on a couple of occasions.
A couple of very late opportunities bloomed with Lions substitute Jhon Duran having a close-range shot saved and Bertrand Traore making an impact off the bench on the right flank, but there was no way through. It was a similar case for West Ham, as an offside Maxwel Cornet ran out one-on-one against Martinez but he made a fool of himself with a shameless stepover before his shot was saved. An end-to-end game, but the points were shared. Here are our Villa player ratings.