Match Report - Aston Villa


A magnificent second-half comeback saw Hammers secure their first Premiership victory of 2006, as goals from Bobby Zamora and Marlon Harewood sealed a 2-1 triumph against Aston Villa.

Alan Pardew made two changes to his starting line-up following last week's FA Cup win at Norwich City. Roy Carroll recovered from a thigh strain and was fit enough to take his place in goal, while Anton Ferdinand was back after a slight hamstring strain and replaced James Collins.

Hammers made a bright start and came close to scoring after just two minutes, when Tomas Repka's low cross from the right evaded the six-yard box and was met at the far post by Matt Etherington, who could only manage to divert the ball into the arms of Thomas Sorensen.

That early scare seemed to spark the hosts into life, and Milan Baros twice saw efforts blocked by Ferdinand inside the penalty area.

Villa were forced into a change after just 12 minutes, when Lee Hendrie came on to replace the injured Eirik Bakke, and it was the substitute who was on hand to open the scoring just before the half-hour mark.

James Milner's clever reverse pass released Samuel on the left, and his near-post cross was met by Hendrie, whose deft header wrong-footed Roy Carroll and found the far corner of the net.

As the half wore on, Hammers began to find their rhythm again. Etherington came close with an effort that was deflected into the side-netting, while Zamora and Harewood continued to cause problems among Villa's back four.

However, the breakthrough couldn't be found and the team went in at half-time feeling slightly unfortunate to be a goal down.

Whatever Alan Pardew said during the interval certainly worked, though, because Hammers came out for the second half in determined mood and, after a build-up of pressure, drew level just five minutes after the restart.

After Hendrie was penalised for a handball on the left, Paul Konchesky whipped in a superb free-kick that Zamora reached before his marker and headed past Sorensen for his fifth Premiership goal of the season.

Villa almost restored their advantage immediately when Samuel again raced down the left to cross for Hendrie, but this time Carroll was equal to the midfielder's powerful header, and the visitors were soon on top again.

Harewood released Newton, whose low shot was well held by Sorensen, before Konchesky broke free on the left and saw his dangerous low cross turned behind for a corner.

On 58 minutes, Hammers were handed the opportunity to turn the game on its head. A deep ball into the box dropped at the feet of Mullins, whose goalbound effort was blocked by the hands of Delaney.

Referee Phil Dowd immediately pointed to the spot, and Harewood stepped up to calmly slot the ball past Sorensen and send the 3,900 travelling Hammers fans wild.

Moments later, it could have been three, as Zamora broke away on the counter-attack, but he delayed his pass just a second too long and the galloping Newton was flagged offside.

With 18 minutes remaining, Pards introduced Yossi Benayoun for the tiring Newton, and he was soon joined by his fellow countryman Yaniv Katan, who came on in place of Zamora for his Premiership debut.

As Villa battled to produce a comeback and Hammers fought to protect their lead, the game began to heat up and there were bookings for Mullins, Katan and Harewood in the space of six minutes.

But for a few dangerous late crosses, the hosts produced little threat in the closing stages, with Hammers' first-choice back four again in place and looking as solid as ever, and the claret and blue faithful went home happy after seeing their team once again come from behind to claim a superb victory on their travels.