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Aston Villa moved out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three as second-half goals from Christian Benteke and Charles N’Zogbia earned a 2-1 victory over West Ham at Villa Park.
Benteke broke the deadlock from the penalty spot with his 15th goal of the campaign and N’Zogbia made the points safe with a superb free-kick. Ashley Westwood’s late own goal could not prevent Villa’s first win in nine league games and ended a run of four successive home league defeats.
Paul Lambert’s side also looked more secure in defending set-pieces than in recent games, with Ciaran Clark impressive. It was a vital three points for the Midlands club ahead of successive matches away to Arsenal and at home to Manchester City. But West Ham have now lost five successive away games and are in danger of being sucked towards the relegation zone.
Lambert handed a first league start to striker Jordan Bowery, a summer signing from Chesterfield, in place of the ill Gabriel Agbonlahor. Villa started brightly and Andreas Weimann missed a golden opportunity to put them ahead after less than two minutes.
West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen failed to hold a dipping shop from Benteke and the rebound fell to Weimann unmarked six yards out. But the Austrian placed the ball wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy and held his head in his hands. Weimann then raced onto a flick from Benteke but defender James Tomkins was alert to the situation and tidied up.
West Ham forward Andy Carroll, fresh from his winner against Swansea City last weekend, was only just too high with a first-time lob which landed on the top of the net and left Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan backpedalling. Carroll and Villa defender Nathan Baker both needed lengthy treatment after a clash of heads when attacking the ball from N’Zogbia’s corner.
West Ham were forced into a change after 24 minutes with right-back Joey O’Brien suffering a leg injury in a strong but fair challenge from Baker before being replaced by Guy Demel. Villa captain Ron Vlaar shot just over at the near post after attacking an Ashley Westwood corner but play struggled to move out of second gear during the opening 45 minutes.
West Ham’s on -oan defender Emanuel Pogatetz was booked in first half injury-time for a foul on N’Zogbia.
West Ham dominated the early stages of the second period possession-wise and appealed in vain for a penalty after a challenge by Vlaar on Carroll. Villa defender Ciaran Clark made a crucial clearance from a Mohamed Diame ball into the danger area after Guzan had failed to make a clean punch on his attempted clearance.
Lambert made a double change after 63 minutes with Darren Bent and Simon Dawkins, a January loan signing, replacing Bowery and Weimann respectively. N’Zogbia curled a shot just past the far post after being teed up by Benteke. Bent came to Villa’s rescue when he cleared a low goal-bound shot from Carroll.
Baker was yellow-carded for bringing down Joe Cole in full flight but after 74 minutes Villa were celebrating as they broke the deadlock through Benteke’s 15th goal of the campaign. Referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a penalty after Mark Noble brought down N’Zogbia. Up stepped Benteke to send Jaaskelainen the wrong way with his spot-kick.
With 11 minutes left N’Zogbia doubled Villa’s lead with a superb free-kick after Tomkins brought down Bent. N’Zogbia curled the ball over the defensive wall and past Jaaskelainen for his first Barclays Premier League goal of the campaign.
Westwood unintentionally set up a tense finale when he headed the ball past Guzan from a Joe Cole cross. Then in injury-time Guzan blocked a shot from Kevin Nolan and turned aside a Carlton Cole header from the resulting corner as Villa survived.
The win took Villa to 17th on 24 points, a point above Reading.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "We deserved to win the game. It was a bit edgy when they scored but we deserved to win. It will be great for confidence. Everyone is willing us to do it. The crowd again were fabulous. It was a massive win, huge win, especially with the results yesterday.
"West Ham are a difficult side to play against with the height that they've got. Nathan was exceptional, Ciaran and Ron too. The last few games they have thrown their bodies into things which you have to do.
"The free-kick from Charles was world-class, an absolute world-class goal. He's got that. He's a really talented footballer. To be fair, over the last couple of months he has been excellent. He was unlucky because he had a bad injury with his knee. That kept him out for six weeks or so.
"Since he's come back into the fold he's been excellent. He has been very good. These type of players are not easy to come by.
"And the big man Benteke has been brilliant. He had a hard week going away with the national team and coming back. That's 15 goals for him now. He's been absolutely brilliant on and off the pitch, he's been excellent. He's been great for me and the club.
"We know what we have to do now. We have 12 games. Every match is tough. But that's a huge win."
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: “I thought we had saved it but we should never have been in that position. That's the biggest disappointment. We should never have got ourselves in a losing position because we'd created the chances. We can't play any better than we played.
"We then created the chances to get ourselves back to 2-2 and we failed to do so and that's been our problem away from home this season. It was great goalkeeping in the end. Guzan pulled off some really good saves.
"We sat comfortable from the chances Villa created and we gifted them a soft penalty when we should not have been in that position. It was a great free kick from Charles N'Zogbia so we can't criticise that too much. The overall situation was disappointing because of the way we played. We dominated and need to put the ball in the back of the net when we get a chance."
|23 Feb 2013||v Arsenal (A)|
|04 Mar 2013||v Man City (H)|
|09 Mar 2013||v Reading (A)|
|16 Mar 2013||v QPR (H)|
|31 Mar 2013||v Liverpool (H)|
|06 Apr 2013||v Stoke (A)|