West Ham 2-0 Aston Villa: Jordan Ayew red costs Remi Garde's side at Upton Park
By Simeon Gholam
Last Updated: 02/02/16 10:57pm
West Ham beat 10-man Aston Villa 2-0 after Jordan Ayew was sent off for a first-half elbow at Upton Park.
The striker was dismissed in the early stages after throwing his arm into Aaron Cresswell, before Michail Antonio headed the Hammers in front after half-time.
Cheikhou Kouyate then added a second on the counter-attack as Villa pushed for a late equaliser.
The result leaves Aston Villa 10 points adrift of safety at the foot of the table while West Ham stay in sixth, six points off the top four.
Micah Richards nearly scored an own goal inside two minutes when Dimitri Payet's cross deflected off the Villa defender and just wide of the post, but after that it was the away side who emerged brighter in the early stages.
That was until Ayew's entirely unnecessary red card after 17 minutes. The striker inexplicably decided to swing his elbow into the face of Cresswell, even though the West Ham left-back was doing very little to antagonize him, and the ball was halfway up the pitch.
Referee Jon Moss wasted no time in brandishing his red card, and boss Remi Garde wouldn't even look at him as he trudged off the pitch and down the tunnel.
The game then became something of a training exercise for West Ham, but they lacked their usual zip going forward and only Enner Valencia came close to scoring before half-time.
Right-back James Tomkins fired a cross-shot right into the path of the West Ham striker, but his header from six yards flew over when it looked like it would have been easier to find the back of the net.
Slaven Bilic must have got stuck into his players at the interval, because the Hammers emerged for the second-half looking far brighter, and it took just 13 minutes for them to find the lead via Antonio.
Mark Noble picked the ball up just inside Villa's half, before pinging a lovely pass over the top of the away defence right onto the head of his team-mate, and Antonio used all the power in his neck muscles to head it past Mark Bunn while on the move.
The goal absolutely flattened Villa after they had worked so hard to stay on level terms, with Richards in particular doing all he could to keep his side in with a chance. But, with confidence already so low, there never looked like there was going to be a way back from there.
West Ham dominated the rest of the game and finally sealed the result with five minutes left to go, breaking away from a Villa corner before Valencia played it through for Kouyate in the box, and he made no mistake with the finish to send the home fans into raptures.
West Ham: Adrian (6), Tomkins (7), Reid (6), Collins (6), Cresswell (7), Song (7), Kouyate (7), Antonio (7), Noble (7), Payet (7), Valencia (7)
Subs: Obiang (n/a), Moses (n/a), Jelavic (n/a)
Aston Villa: Bunn (5), Richards (6), Okore (5), Lescott (5), Cissokho (5), Bacuna (5), Gueye (5), Veretout (5), Gil (5), Agbonlahor (4), Ayew (1)
Subs: Sinclair (5), Richardson (n/a)
Man of the match: Mark Noble