Aston Villa secured their first Premier League win in nine games as a penalty from Christian Benteke and a free-kick from Charles N'Zogbia saw them defeat West Ham 2-1 at Villa Park.
A dismal first half was followed by an eventful second as N'Zogbia, so often disappointing during his time in a Villa shirt, proved the catalyst for a result that takes his side out of the relegation zone.
The Frenchman won a penalty after 74 minutes, Benteke slotting the ball home calmly to score in his fifth successive match in all competitions, and N'Zogbia then sent a dipping free-kick over the wall and under the bar five minutes later.
Ashley Westwood diverted a Joe Cole cross into his own net with three minutes remaining, raising the possibility of more late heartbreak following Marouane Fellaini's equaliser three minutes into injury time last weekend, but a fantastic performance from goalkeeper Brad Guzan ensured Villa held on to record a vital win and their first in the Premier League in 2013.
West Ham handed a full debut to Emanuel Pogatetz as he and Joe Cole replaced Matt Jarvis and Ricardo Vaz Te in the starting XI. Villa, meanwhile, placed their faith in another youngster with a lower league upbringing as former Chesterfield forward Jordan Bowery was given his first Premier League start, despite the previously prolific Darren Bent sitting on the bench.
Andreas Weimann was also up in support of Benteke as Villa sought to address a poor run of home form that had seen them score only twice in their past seven league matches at Villa Park. However, inside three minutes the Austrian was guilty of one of the worst misses of the season.
Benteke, on a hot streak with goals in his past four games, cut in from the left and drilled a meek effort at goal that bounced in to Jussi Jaaskelainen. Somehow the keeper spilled the ball straight to the feet of Weimann, but presented with the easiest of tap-ins, he instead struck the ball wide with his right instep when aiming for the far corner.
The forward also saw a header blocked when it cannoned into an away shirt in a half-chance that nonetheless registered as a major incident in a desperately uneventful first 45 minutes. Other 'highlights' included Guy Demel coming on for the injured Joey O'Brien and Nathan Baker sustaining a cut to the head when challenging for a corner.
With Andy Carroll isolated in attack and firing one effort off target, West Ham were otherwise restricted to a shot from Mohamed Diame that found the side netting; Villa offered slightly more threat with Ron Vlaar firing over from a corner before an awful half mercifully concluded.
The tempo was higher in the second half but worryingly for Villa it was West Ham who began to apply more consistent pressure, with young defenders Baker and Ciaran Clark making a number of important clearances to keep Carroll and co at bay. Kevin Nolan also had a shot blocked while Carroll saw his low drive cleared off the line by Bent, on as a substitute along with Premier League debutant Simon Dawkins who has signed from Spurs at the age of 25.
Villa looked short of inspiration but N'Zogbia suddenly sprung to life to transform the game, and possibly his team's season.
The midfielder first rifled a shot just wide of the post following a pass from Benteke and then, on 74 minutes, won a penalty when his neat touch in the box took him away from Mark Noble, who stuck out a leg to bring him down. Benteke strolled up to the spot, waited for Jaaskelainen to move and then stroked the ball the other way.
N'Zogbia's strike from a free-kick five minutes later was rather more spectacular - the Frenchman curling the ball over the wall after Tomkins had been penalised for a foul on Bent - and looked to have given Villa a vital win in the battle against relegation.
But a team prone to suffering late setbacks conceded again when Westwood flicked a cross from Cole into his own net and only a succession of vital saves from Guzan at the death - the American notably denying Nolan and Diame - allowed Villa to record a victory that takes them out of the bottom three.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) - Coped expertly with West Ham's aerial approach and also made a number of vital saves in a performance that could be crucial to transforming Aston Villa's season.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan 9, Lowton 7, Vlaar 7, Clark 8, Baker 8, Westwood 5, Delph 7, Weimann 5, Bowery 5, N'Zogbia 8, Benteke 7. Subs: Bent 7, Dawkins 5, Sylla N/A.
WEST HAM: Jaaskelainen 5, O'Brien 6, Reid 6, Tomkins 5, Pogatetz 6, Diame 7, Nole 5, Cole 6, Nolan 6, Taylor 5, Carroll 6. Subs: Demel 6, Cole 5, Vaz Te 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Aston Villa
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