West Ham 2-1 Aston Villa: David Moyes' side reignite their top four push after Andriy Yarmolenko scores an emotional effort and Pablo Fornals also strikes - with Jacob Ramsey netting a late consolation
By Adrian Kajumba For Mailonline,2022-03-13
Few goals that have been scored in this stadium will have been greeted as loudly or sparked as much emotion as the one that broke the deadlock in this game.
It came from Andriy Yarmolenko in his first appearance since returning to the fold after missing West Ham’s last four games with his country under siege following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Exactly what Yarmolenko has been through in recent weeks is impossible to truly grasp but his celebration and the release of emotion perhaps provided a small indication.
The winger sunk to his knees and pointed to the sky before being mobbed in the latest show of support from teammates who have witnessed his pain first-hand.
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was the only one not to join in at that point but made a beeline for Yarmolenko at full time.
As he made his way back to his half following his goal, receiving a couple more comforting pats along the way, Yarmolenko wiped tears from his face.
It says everything about the resolve and mental strength of Yarmolenko and his fellow Ukrainian players who have managed to train and play while war continues to rage in their homeland.
His goal was a display of incredible composure and presence of mind combined with skill and technique.
The winger controlled a Said Benrahma ball fizzed into him with his right foot and, in almost one movement, swivelled and let off a poked volley with his left that he squeezed beyond Emiliano Martinez.
‘A goal for West Ham and a goal for Ukraine,’ the stadium announcer screamed, fittingly marking the moment.
Yarmolenko, on the cover of West Ham’s programme that carried the words ‘United for Ukraine, was later deservedly named man of the match.
His strike opened up a game that had been drifting a little but ended frantically after Pablo Fornals doubled West Ham’s lead before Jacob Ramsey hit back for Aston Villa to set up a tense finale.
And Yarmolenko’s introduction from the bench early in the second half to replace Michail Antonio helped ensure West Ham retained enough of a cutting edge to pip Villa to the three points.
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYERS RATINGS
WEST HAM (4-3-3): Fabianski 7; Johnson 7, Dawson 7, Zouma 7, Cresswell 6 (Fredericks 57, 6); Soucek 7, Rice 8, Lanzini 6; Fornals 7, Antonio 6.5 (Yarmolenko 52, 8), Benrahma 7.5 (Diop 87).
Subs not used: Areola, Noble, Masuaku, Kral, Oko-Flex, Perkins.
Scorer: Yarmolenko 70, Fornals 82
Manager: David Moyes 6
ASTON VILLA (4-3-1-2): Martinez 6; Cash 6, Chambers 7, Mings 7, Digne 5 (Young 10, 6); McGinn 6, Luiz 7 (Buendia 79), Ramsey 7; Coutinho 6.5; Ings 6.5 (Bailey 69, 6.5), Watkins 6.5.
Subs not used: Olsen, Konsa, Sanson, Traore, Chukwuemeka, Iroegbunam.
Scorer: Ramsey 90
Manager: Steven Gerrard 6
Referee: Jarred Gillet 7
Attendance: 59, 957
Manager David Moyes said: ‘That was a special moment that Yarmolenko scored. His goal was terrific and it was a big moment for him. We are pleased for him and his family as well. He came back in and the whole dressing room applauded him.
‘The goal is important but the message out there might be even more important. I hope it shows how important and that everybody is thinking about it.
'Football has a huge appeal all around the world, the Premier League, and I hope in some ways if it is bigged up enough maybe it will do something to help stop this and maybe give the Ukrainians something to shout about if they see that we are talking about it in this country all the time.’
The first half was largely a non-event other than for a number of painful blows to some of Steven Gerrard’s Villa players.
Lucas Digne limped off after 10 minutes with a muscle problem that will require a scan.
Douglas Luiz will need some ‘facial reconstruction’ after taking a painful kick in the face from Manuel Lanzini which left him needing stitches and with a mouth injury.
Matty Cash and Emiliano Martinez were also left writhing in pain on the turf while Calum Chambers also took a whack to the face after what Gerrard described as a ‘forearm smash’ from Craig Dawson in the second half when the incidents of real note came.
Antonio’s exit was the first when he limped off with a right leg injury soon after the restart.
With the Europa League return leg against Sevilla and a one goal deficit to overturn on Thursday the timing of their No 9’s injury was far from ideal, likewise the one which forced Aaron Cresswell off soon after.
For Antonio, on came Yarmolenko, a substitution some of the travelling fans also applauded.
Both sides then had good chances. Fabianski tipped Danny Ings’ effort onto the post and Dawson headed over from yards out when it seemed easier to score.
Then came a moment nobody inside the London Stadium will forget when Yarmolenko struck.
He might then have had a second, firing into the side-netting, but West Ham eventually doubled their lead when Fornals finished off a fine break that began with Declan Rice’s driving run out from his own half.
That should have been that but Ramsey curled in a Villa consolation in the 90th minute and West Ham could not be certain of the points until the final whistle.
Gerrard, whose Villa side saw their three-game winning run ended, said: ‘We wanted to keep the momentum going. The game was decided from moments rather than us being outplayed or outclassed.’
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