Fortune smiles on Fornals as Hammers win at last

Aston Villa v West Ham United – Premier League – Villa Park – Report

Aston Villa 0-1 West Ham United

It wasn’t pretty and it was settled by a huge slice of fortune, but West Ham United are up and running following their single-goal success at an agitated Villa Park.

Without a Premier League point or a goal to their name, David Moyes tweaked his starting line-up. Emerson Palmieri and Gianluca Scamacca were handed a shirt, while Ben Johnson returned to the eleven, the player had scored the opening goal in the Hammers’ resounding 4-1 triumph at Villa Park the season previous.

Moyes insisted this was the right moment to throw Scamacca in from the start: “I think just that he had some minutes, he’s had two games now,” the Scotsman explained. 

“Prior to that, he had no minutes in pre-season before he joined us. It was just getting him up to speed and trying to pick the right moment. 

“I think midweek we gave him sixty to seventy minutes and we will get him out and running today.”

West Ham had won each of their last two visits to Villa Park, however, during a nervy start it was the home side who started brightly. Ollie Watkins saw his attempt deflected behind, while Ezri Konsa’s celebrations were cut short after the ball had already gone behind from the resulting flag-kick from John McGinn.

The East Londoners were dealt a blow when Johnson was forced off midway through the opening half with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Vladimir Coufal was handed the opportunity to impress following an indifferent start to his season.

Lukasz Fabianski comfortably fielded a speculative attempt from Philippe Coutinho. But for all Villa’s possession, chances continued to come at a premium. Pablo Fornals’ horribly wayward strike was the Hammers’ only effort at this point. 

Moyes threw on Said Benrahma in place of Emerson in a bid to add some sort of a threat from the visitors, but the scrappy nature of the contest continued.

Lucas Digne produced a superb saving tackle to deny Jarrod Bowen a clear sight of goal, while Scamacca’s deflected strike was easily saved by Emiliano Martinez. But despite upping the tempo, West Ham’s final ball continued to frustrate.

Michail Antonio replaced Scamacca. Benrahma fired over. The quality of the encounter, at best, was questionable.

But then a stroke of fortune and a breakthrough for the Hammers. Fornals’ strike deflected viciously off Konsa and looped over Martinez, sending the visiting contingent into raptures for the first time during this league campaign. 

West Ham United’s Pablo Fornals celebrates scoring the only goal of the game at Villa Park (Rob Newell CameraSport)

In a frenetic finish, Villa huffed and puffed. Jacob Ramsey drilled directly at Fabianski, but there was no way through. The home side were roundly booed off the field with sporadic calls from the crowd for Steven Gerrard to be relieved of his duties.

West Ham United return to Premier League action on Wednesday, August 31 when Tottenham Hotspur visit the London Stadium (8pm).

Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Chambers, Konsa, Digne, Kamara, Luiz (Ramsey 66′), McGinn (Capt) (Archer 90+1′), Coutinho (Buendía 66′), Watkins, Ings Subs not used: Olsen (GK), Augustinsson, Young, Nakamba, Bailey, Iroegbunam

Booked: Matthew Cash (foul). Kamara (foul)

Goals: None

West Ham United: Fabiański, Johnson (Coufal 23′), Kehrer, Zouma, Cresswell, Emerson (Benrahma 46′), Rice (Capt), Souček, Bowen, Fornals, Scamacca (Antonio 65′) Subs not used: Areola (GK), Ogbonna, Coventry, Downes, Lanzini, Cornet

Booked: None

Goals: Pablo Fornals 74′

Referee: David Coote

Assistants: Nick Hopton and Timothy Wood

Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor

VAR: Michael Salisbury

Assistant VAR: Simon Bennett

Attendance: 41,796

Brian Jeeves