Harewood Hat-trick Too Hot For Villa

A MAGNIFICENT Marlon Harewood hat-trick and Yossi Benayoun's first goal for the Club completed a superb 4-0 victory for Hammers over Aston Villa.

From start to finish this was an incredible West Ham United performance. Villa were simply blown away by a potent combination of pace, power and skill on a great night under the floodlights at the Boleyn Ground.

Pards kept an unchanged side from the one that lost 2-1 to Bolton more than two weeks ago.

Before the game a minutes silence was impecably observed for former Hammers full-back Noel Cantwell, who died on Thursday 8th September aged 73.

After the silence, however, came a wall of noise as Upton Park rose to the occasion on a typically atmospheric evening clash at the Boleyn Ground.

Hammers responded with a bright start, Marlon Harewood turning Villa skipper Olof Mellberg in the opening minute and forcing the Sweden defender into a desperate challenge that had claims for a penalty ringing out from the home supporters.

And before five minutes had elapsed Matty Etherington had unleashed a venemous 25 yard volley that sizzled over the Aston Villa crossbar and five minutes later Paul Konchesky had drilled an even longer effort into the arms of goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

If only Tomas Repka could have done the same from a much more appealing distance just outside the penalty area, but his effort was more Johnny Wilkinson, as it sailed into the Centenary Stand after Villa had cleared some good work from Etherington on the left.

On 16 minutes a wonderfully crafted Hammers attack produced the best chance of the game so far. On the break, Harewood played the ball inside to Sheringham and the 39-year-old striker used all his guile to let the ball run on to Yossi Benayoun following up on the overlap. 

He cut inside his marker well, but the shot from just inside the area was low down and comfortable for Sorensen.

By now Hammers had established their dominance, commanding the midfield and showing plenty of inventiveness in attack. When Konchesky escaped on a swashbuckling raid down the left and drilled in a low cross Hammers looked certain to score.

But after the entire penalty area had missed it and the ball came out to Benayoun the Israeli midfielder was off balance and could only prod wildly at the ball.

It was all West Ham and on 25 minutes Alan Pardew's men finally got the breakthrough their play deserved. Konchesky's ball forward was headed over the top by Sheringham and when Mellberg slipped Harewood was away into the space in behind.

Bearing down on Sorensen the striker made no mistake, sliding the ball under the advancing goalkeeper to make it 1-0 and celebrate his first goal of the season.

With Upton Park rocking on a wave of delight it took Hammers just five more minutes to double their advantage. An Etherington corner picked out Anton Ferdinand who headed the ball goalwards, to where Harewood was lurking six yards out.

The forward stuck out a leg and showing great athleticism flicked the ball over Sorensen and into the Villa net.

The visitors looked to hit back, but all they could muster was a deflected shot from Milan Baros and a wild slash over the bar from Gareth Barry as Hammers defence remained solid.

At the other end Harewood's strength was a constant threat to the Villa defence and on 37 minutes he shrugged off Aaron Hughes before blazing a shot that would have troubled Sorensen had it not deflected off Mellberg for a corner.

James Milner came close for Villa as the half drew to an end, shooting low down and forcing Carroll into a fine one-handed save at his near post. But it could not dampen the Upton Park crowd's enthusiasm for a rampaging West Ham performance.

Hammers had further efforts from Hayden Mullins and Teddy Sheringham as a half that they had dominated from start to finish closed with them sitting on a comfortable looking two-goal cushion.

HT: 2-0 

Villa very nearly found an improbable way back into the game with the second-half just three minutes old.

James Milner swung in a deep cross from the right that eluded Carroll and smacked against the inside of the far post, cannoned across the goal-line and hit the other post before bouncing out to Kevin Phillips, whose shot was into the side netting.

It is a measure of this West Ham side's resolve that two minutes later they had scored the goal that sealed the Club's second win of the season.

Etherington bent in a corner from the right, Sorensen came and completely missed the ball, leaving Marlon Harewood unmarked at the back post to turn and power home a magnificent hat-trick to make it 3-0.

It was the first hat-trick scored by a Hammers player since Matty Etherington netted three times in a 5-0 win over Wimbledon in March 2004.

Villa showed some fighting spirit when a spell of pressure amounted to Carroll being forced into a fine save down low to deny an angled drive from Milner. But Pards' team were in control, stroking the ball around at will and posing a threat every time the West Ham attack strutted forward.

On 63 minutes Baros weaved his way into the Hammers penalty area and got off a low drive that Carroll did well to parry, but by now the Upton Park faithful were in party mood.

With 70 minutes gone Etherington, who appeared to be the victim of cramp, was replaced by Shaun Newton. But the biggest cheer of the night came five minutes later when Harewood was replaced by Bobby Zamora. The hat-trick hero receiving a magnificent ovation from the Upton Park crowd.

As they had done for the entire match, Hammers dominated the closing stages. Villa barely threatened Roy Carroll's goal, although Baros did force the goalkeeper into a routine save with a long-range effort.

Steven Davis pulled a low drive from the edge of the area wide, but this was West Ham's night and the crowd were going to enjoy it.

So was Yossi Benayoun. And in the 89th minute he scored the goal of the night to seal a 4-0 victory for West Ham United.

Sheringham fed him the ball on the left and he turned Hughes, then cut back and turned him again, before dispatching a low shot across Sorensen and into the far corner of the net. It was the Israel star's first goal for the Hammers, and what a way to mark it!

The final whistle blew moments later, greeted by delight inside Upton Park as Hammers celebrated their first win over Villa since November 1997 and three more vital Premier League points.