Premier League - Villa thump West Ham

Eurosport - Mon, 16 Aug 00:08:00 2010

Aston Villa crushed West Ham 3-0 in their Premier League opener at Villa Park, with James Milner scoring in probably his last game for the club.

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The midfielder, who is expected to join Manchester City within days, wrapped up an emphatic victory after first-half goals from Stewart Downing and Stiliyan Petrov.

Villa showed no ill-effects from a traumatic week that saw manager Martin O'Neill resign following a dispute with owner Randy Lerner - an interested spectator at Villa Park - over transfer policy.

Caretaker boss Kevin McDonald stepped into the breach and had no qualms about picking Milner.

The England midfielder was given a classy standing ovation when he went off late on, but he was outshone by a potential gem of a player - Marc Albrighton, who fairly terrorised West Ham down both flanks.

Miss a Match? We didn't

Aston Villa 3 West Ham 0

Albrighton set up Milner's goal and enjoyed a terrific afternoon against the shell-shocked Herita Ilunga, Winston Reid and Julien Faubert. He has a big future ahead of him.

Also to the fore was another in-demand player, Ashley Young. The 25-year-old is a target for Tottenham Hotspur and it is not hard to see why. He boasts pace, skill and an eye for a pass, and was to the fore as Villa completely dominated proceedings.

His clever reverse pass down the line led to the game's first chance as he found Downing, whose cross John Carew headed just wide.

Carew was in the thick of it minutes later when played clean through. The Norwegian rounded Robert Green but the ball fell into the path of defender James Tomkins who managed to shin it against the post from the edge of the box before it bounced to safety.

Green suffered a torrid summer, making a terrible error against the USA at the World Cup, and he brought his uncertain form back to the Premier League with him.

He wafted hopelessly at two early crosses and was badly at fault for the goal on 15 minutes. The goalkeeper palmed a Young cross unconvincingly to Albrighton, whose follow-up shot was parried into the path of Downing who could hardly miss from a couple of yards, although West Ham had a strong offside claim.

Green partially redeemed himself when Carew flicked a long Brad Friedel clearance into the path of Young - the winger saw his dipping volley tipped over.

But it was not long until Villa got the second goal their total dominance merited - Young crossed from the right and Petrov powered a header past Green.

Never the chirpiest character, Avram Grant looked a picture of misery just 40 minutes into his debut on the West Ham bench.

Villa cruised through the second half despite the visitors' introduction of Frederic Piquionne and Pablo Barrera.

Downing hit the crossbar twice, while at the other end Faubert missed a sitter in a rare foray forward.

Milner completed the scoring on 66 minutes after Albrighton's umpteenth mazy dribble of the afternoon. The 20-year-old pulled the ball back to the edge of the box and Milner lashed in a left-foot shot from the edge of the box.

It was fitting that after Milner and Young went off to great acclaim late on, Albrighton was afforded a stirring ovation when also withdrawn.

Villa's future remains uncertain, but based on this performance there are grounds for genuine optimism.

Now if only they could keep their manager and best players at the club, they could really be something.

Alex Chick / Eurosport

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