Villa too strong on opening day

West Ham United's 2010/11 Barclays Premier League challenge got off to a stuttering start in the shape of a comprehensive defeat at Aston Villa.

Despite the departure of manager Martin O'Neill just five days previously, the home side were deserved victors at Villa Park.

England winger Stewart Downing opening the scoring - albeit from a clearly offside position - on 15 minutes after youngster Marc Albrighton volleyed Robert Green's punch back across the goalmouth.

The lead was doubled five minutes before half-time when another England wideman, Ashley Young, crossed from the right for Bulgarian Stiliyan Petrov to run on and head powerfully past Green from eight yards.

Having fallen two goals behind, Avram Grant's side rallied either side of half time, with Luis Boa Morte cutting inside from the left and testing American goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

The Portugal midfielder was one of two players replaced at the interval - the other being Radoslav Kovac - as Grant sent on new signings Pablo Barrera and Frederic Piquionne in an attempt to get back into the game.

The bold move almost paid off straight away when Frenchman Piquionne teed up compatriot Julien Faubert, only for the No20 to miss the target from 12 yards out.

The Hammers were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal late with 24 minutes remaining.

Albrighton cut inside James Tomkins before laying the ball to the edge of the penalty area, where James Milner was on hand to sweep a low shot past Green with his left foot.

Grant sent on Alessandro Diamanti for the England Under-21 centre-back with 18 minutes to go, but there was little the Italian could do to drag West Ham back into the match.

Indeed, Villa could have extended their lead had Norway striker John Carew not seen his shot bounce clear off the inside of the post.

Afterwards, the new West Ham manager was understandably displeased following his first match in charge.

"I was not by pleased by the first-half performance or the result. The first goal was a clear offside but we did not play so well even though we had two big chances to score at 1-0 and 2-0.

"We didn't score, we didn't play quick and we didn't pass the ball well, so we made some changes and until they scored again we controlled the game. Again, we had another two big chances but we didn't score. They did but that is football. The game was finished.

"Villa were better than us. My players wanted to succeed in this game very much and they had been waiting for this match, especially after last season but sometimes when you're so excited you don't end up playing so well."

Faubert, who featured in his new advanced midfield role after spending last season at right-back, was also frustrated by both the performance and result.

"We had two or three chances but we did not follow them up. We took on the pressure but could not get back on how we wanted to play. We just have to forget this game now and concentrate on getting it right in the next game."

The No20 also took time out to thank the near-3,000 supporters who cheered the Hammers on at Villa Park.

"The fans were fantastic, singing loud even when we were losing by the three goals. They also gave a good cheer to Greeny and that was good for him. That is why we want to do better, for them, to show we are grateful for their support."