West Ham United vs Aston Villa. Premier League.
Report and free highlights from the Premier League match between West Ham and Aston Villa at the London Stadium; Ollie Watkins opened the scoring for Villa with header before Said Benrahma equalised from the penalty spot; Hammers go above Bournemouth on goal difference
Sunday 12 March 2023 22:23, UK
West Ham lifted themselves out of the relegation zone with a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa after being awarded a penalty for Said Benrahma's equaliser that Unai Emery described as being "very soft".
After Bournemouth's shock win over Liverpool on Saturday, West Ham started the game in the bottom three and it looked as though they would stay there when Ollie Watkins headed Villa in front (17), scoring in his fourth consecutive Premier League away game.
But West Ham were handed a lifeline when Villa forward Leon Bailey conceded a penalty after very minimal contact on Lucas Paqueta. Benrahama made no mistake as he smashed in the equaliser (26).
"I respect the referees 100 per cent," said Emery. "But my opinion today is that it is a very soft penalty."
The result takes David Moyes' side out of the relegation zone and above Bournemouth on goal difference as they ended Villa's two-game winning streak to alleviate some of the pressure that was building after last Saturday's 4-0 thrashing at Brighton.
West Ham: Areola (6), Kehrer (6), Zouma (7), Aguerd (7), Emerson (7), Rice (7), Soucek (6), Bowen (7), Paqueta (7), Benrahma (8), Ings (6).
Subs: Fornals (6), Cornet (5).
Aston Villa: Martinez (7), Cash (6), Konsa (6), Mings (6), Moreno (7), McGinn (6), Ramsey (7), Luiz (6), Bailey (5), Watkins (8), Buendia (6).
Subs: Traore (6), Chambers (6), Young (7), Duran (6), Digne (6).
Player of the match: Ollie Watkins.
Villa broke the deadlock after a cagey start as Watkins headed in Alex Moreno's cross in the away side's first attack, scoring his seventh Premier League goal since the World Cup. Only Marcus Rashford (10), Erling Haaland (10) and Harry Kane (9) have more in that time.
But West Ham responded quickly from the penalty spot after Bailey was penalised for a soft challenge on Paqueta. VAR had a quick look before Benrahama lashed the ball into the roof of the net away from the clutches of Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to level the score.
The hosts wasted chances with Benrahma and Kurt Zouma failing to hit the target from inside the box and were nearly made to pay, only for stand-in goalkeeper Alphonse Areola to produce a big stop to keep Watkins from doubling Villa's lead from inside the six-yard box.
Benrahma was presented with a chance within a minute of play resuming but his left-footed volley was well stopped by Martinez as West Ham pushed to go ahead. The game became stretched but neither side had the quality to find a winner.
Villa began to tail off after an hour and had to rely on their goalkeeper again as he tipped over a long-range effort from Benrahma cutting in from the left. Substitute Ashley Young also produced a vital block to deny another strike from inside the box by the West Ham forward in the latter stages.
West Ham substitute Maxwel Cornet had a glorious chance to win the game in stoppage-time but attempted a bizarre step over before firing straight at Martinez. Replays showed he ran too early and was ultimately flagged offside, but he will feel he should have timed his run better and nicked the win for his side.
Moyes' side were in the ascendancy for most of the second half but failed to carve out the clear chances needed to secure what would have been just their third win of 2023 in the Premier League. Although they are now out of the bottom three the home fans made their discontent known at full-time with a chorus of boos.
Aston Villa head coach Unai Emery said: "I watched it and I respect the referees 100 per cent. But my opinion today is that it is a very soft penalty."
On the game, he added: "I am happy because we knew this would be a tough match. We controlled the game more in the first half but they pushed us and had chances. The second half was a little more open than we wanted.
"There was a moment that we were controlling very well and maybe it was the moment to score the second goal and the moment we could win the match. It was a fair result.
"The result is positive. This draw means were do not escape the teams at the bottom but we are keeping the distance with West Ham. Today we missed the opportunity to be close to the top teams."
On goalscorer Watkins, he added: "I hope Watkins can continue this run of form. He is very competitive. He is practising every day trying to learn and do more work than the team is demanding. This is a good spirit to improve.
"Sometimes I am demanding with him, trying to improve him in the small spaces to move better and trying to be more efficient in the box. He is demanding and critical of himself and listening a lot."
West Ham manager David Moyes told Sky Sports: "The performance was much improved in the second half. We dropped two points in the end because of the chances we created.
"We did a good job in the second half. It was tough in the first.
"The biggest thing was to get a result on Thursday [in the Europa Conference League]. The performance wasn't where we wanted it to be so we wanted a performance today and overall I'm really pleased."
He added: "It was a missed opportunity that we didn't get the second goal and the performance in the second half probably warranted it. The players played well at times but we couldn't quite get that second goal. Missing chances has been the story of the season. We had four or five good opportunities and never seemed to get anything that clean. Just a bit more quality at the death might have got us more."
Asked about Lucas Paqueta walking down the tunnel after being subbed before coming back to the bench, Moyes added: "He wanted to stay on. But I explained to him that I didn't want him to get suspended for future games."
On £35.5m summer signing Gianluca Scamacca being an unused sub, Moyes said: "He is very good at his link-up play. We know his physical data has to be much better than it is. Gialnluca has to get himself back. No manager wants to put a bad team out.
"His application is there but we want his output to be bigger and more. That is one of the things that we are looking for more. We like his hold-up play, he is really good at it but we haven't seen it as much in the work we've been doing."
West Ham defender Kurt Zouma told Sky Sports: "It should have been three points. We played a good game and had many chances but just couldn't score. Obviously, we need to get wins.
"That was their only chance and they scored. We kept the focus and the belief to come back. We should have won but we got a point and need to move on."
|Bonus points||Moreno (3), Watkins (2), Benrahma (1)|