One for the purists and those of a more trashy persuasion, this had the lot. Goals, tackles, tricks, spot kicks, feigning and fouls. There was also an intriguing interlocking of tactics that could have ended any way, but did so in West Ham’s favour, but only after Ollie Watkins had an equaliser ruled out by VAR for offside in added time.
A goal at the start of each half from Angelo Ogbonna and Jarrod Bowen was enough to edge West Ham past Aston Villa and another dominant performance from Jack Grealish. His virtuoso goal was ultimately immaterial, but it might have been different had Watkins scored a 74th minute penalty for the visitors.
Pre-match dispatches had mostly concerned themselves with the return of Michail Antonio to the West Ham XI after three matches out due to injury. It was not a straightforward call after Sebastien Haller had played some of his best football for the club in the victory over Sheffield United. But Antonio’s physicality, pace and determination can put the jeepers up any side and so it proved in the opening moments here.
His drive into the box and his general presence lurking off the shoulder of Ezri Konsa spooked the visitors and inside the opening minute a last-ditch block from Matt Targett was needed to keep out a low shot from Tomas Soucek.
A corner followed and West Ham took the lead, Bowen drifting a cross high and slow to the back post where Angelo Ogbonna had all the time to pick his spot and bounce a header past Emiliano Martínez.
Villa’s defending looked ominous. They were ragged, looked intimidated, and West Ham’s direct play looked set to punish them every time they came over the halfway line.
Villa, though, weathered the storm and West Ham’s penetrating play became indiscriminate. Suddenly it was the visitors who were holding the ball. For 20 minutes, it was only the possession stats that changed, but then the chances started to emerge.
Grealish, in the early stages, had been largely engaged in a scuffle with Vladimir Coufal to see who could draw the cutest foul from the other. In the 25th minute, however, the Villa captain exploded into life.
The move began with Matty Cash on the halfway line, the right-back driving a low cross into Grealish with his back to goal. Instead of taking a touch, however, Grealish used the occasion to ping the ball and himself round Coufal and into acres of room in the middle of the field.
He bore down on goal, the West Ham defenders backed off and that was a mistake; a fierce right to left strike took a small deflection and rocketed past Lukasz Fabianski.
Villa had two more decent chances before the break, Watkins stabbing wide after a lovely passing move and a clever Conor Hourihane effort from a free kick going just wide. It prompted David Moyes into action with Antonio off at half-time for Haller and Saïd Benrahma replacing Arthur Masuaku.
Playing the adventurous Algerian at wing-back was a bold move, but it paid off within seconds. Picking up the ball from Bowen from a turnover just after the kick-off, Benrahma cut inside from the left to chip a short cross into the box. Bowen was there to meet it and his flicked header went inside the far post.
Back came Villa again though. Aaron Cresswell had to block a low McGinn shot just after the goal. Trézéguet then could not believe his eyes when Fabianski stopped a shot from point-blank range after good work from Watkins.
In the 74th minute Trézéguet won a penalty for Watkins after the winger crumpled after a shirt pull from Declan Rice. Watkins stepped up and smashed his kick against the bar.