Milner scores in Villa stroll
Aston Villa kicked off their Premier League campaign with an emphatic 3-0 win over West Ham.
By Elliot Ball
Last Updated: 14/08/10 7:04pm
James Milner capped what could be his last game for Aston Villa with a fine goal as they kicked off their Premier League campaign by emphatically beating West Ham 3-0 to prove there can be life after Martin O'Neill.
Milner, who is expected to join Manchester City in the coming days, proved caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald - left to take charge after O'Neill walked out as manager earlier in the week - correct to select him for Saturday's season opener as he signed off in style with a stellar display in front of the Villa Park faithful.
Before that, Stewart Downing was the beneficiary of a lenient offside decision and latched onto Marc Albrighton's parried shot to give the hosts the lead in the 15th minute.
Villa's utter dominance paid off once more as Stiliyan Petrov's clever run was picked out by the brilliant Ashley Young and the Villa captain nodded a second five minutes before half-time.
The Hammers, who were defensively woeful in the Midlands, briefly caused Villa a few problems in the second half but Milner rounded off the win with a delightful finish after being teed up by the impressive young winger Albrighton on 66 minutes.
Right at home
Albrighton, who made his England Under-21 debut in midweek, was given his first Premier League start and he looked right at home while West Ham failed to handle Young's pace and movement.
Villa started like a train and barely let up in intensity.
Richard Dunne and John Carew both missed with close-range headers after being picked out by Downing before West Ham's defending touched on the farcical.
Carew should have put Villa ahead when he latched on to a dreadful back-pass from James Tomkins. A poor first touch gave Robert Green time to race off his line and his deflection ricocheted off Tomkins and onto the post.
Somehow West Ham cleared but a Villa goal seemed inevitable and it duly came after 15 minutes.
Green parried Young's fierce cross out to Albrighton, who volleyed the rebound goalwards and forced the West Ham keeper into a diving save.
But Green could only push the ball to Downing who scored from the six-yard line. The officials waved away West Ham's strong appeals for offside.
Young almost doubled Villa's advantage when he escaped the West Ham defence but Green produced an excellent save to tip his shot over the bar.
Milner thought he had won a penalty when he was challenged by West Ham debutant Winston Reid on the edge of the box but referee Mike Dean waved play on.
Reid was struggling on his Premier League debut and was even penalised for a foul throw as West Ham failed to relieve the almost constant pressure.
Carlton Cole made one powerful run past Dunne and into the Villa box but he had no-one in support and his shot was dragged across the face of goal.
All at sea
West Ham's defence was all at sea as Downing and Albrighton made the most of the space and time they were being afforded down the flanks.
Albrighton once again got the better of Herita Ilunga before pulling the ball back to Young, who picked out Petrov's driving run into the box, and the Bulgarian headed Villa into a 2-0 lead.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel was called into serious action only once in the half and he was equal to Luis Boa Morte's shot after the former Portugal international had made space inside the box.
Grant sent on Pablo Barrera and Frederic Piquionne in the second half and West Ham briefly flickered into life but Tomkins powered a header wide of Friedel's post.
Barrera's first real contribution was to concede a free-kick, which Downing curled towards the top corner and Green was relieved to see it dip just over the bar.
But Villa soon wrapped up the game. Albrighton bustled his way past Tomkins and pulled the ball back for Milner, who lashed a first-time shot past Green.
Milner barely celebrated in front of the Holte End but he did acknowledge the standing ovation from the Villa Park crowd after being replaced before the end.
Villa pushed for a fourth goal and Petrov picked out Carew in the box but the Norwegian striker once again failed to find the target with a close-range header.
Carew then squeezed a shot against the post but the ball refused to go in, rolling across the line, and Young could only turn it into the side-netting.Villa were unfortunate not to have won by double the scoreline by full-time as MacDonald's side put the midweek disruption behind them with a commanding performance to get their season up and running.
|Aston Villa||Team Statistics||West Ham United|
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||1|
|12||Shots off Target||10|