Second-half goals from Christian Benteke and Charles N’Zogbia earned Aston Villa a 2-1 win over West Ham at Villa Park on Sunday.
In what was a pretty dire contest throughout, Benteke’s penalty and N’Zogbia’s wonderful free kick were enough for Villa to secure their first league win since beating Liverpool in December, although they faced a nervous finale after a late own goal by Ashley Westwood.
The first half was a turgid affair, with neither side capable of creating any clear-cut opportunities.
The hosts, however, will have been disappointed to head to half-time level after registering a contender for miss of the season with their only real chance of the half.
It came after just two minutes when a powerful shot from Belgium striker Benteke was spilled by West Ham ‘keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen straight into the path of Andreas Weimann, but the young striker somehow missed from six yards with the goal gaping.
Villa arguably shaded the opening period, but a Ron Vlaar half-volley from a corner aside, they did not threaten Jaaskelainen’s goal throughout the opening period.
The visitors fared little better, with Mohamed Diame’s sliced shot which went well wide midway through the half their best contribution to the game.
West Ham started the second half with much more purpose though, and had a good claim for a penalty turned down after Ron Vlaar tussled with Andy Carroll.
Referee Mark Clattenburg had an excellent view of the incident, but decided it was not worthy of a spot kick despite strong appeals from visitors.
West Ham continued to be the superior side as the game reached the hour mark, with Matt Taylor and Joe Cole causing several problems for the Villa defence with their crosses from wide positions.
The home side almost grabbed a goal against the run of play when N’Zogbia’s left-footed effort went narrowly wide of the far post after he cut in from the right.
Seconds later it was West Ham who almost went ahead when Carroll had a powerful drive cleared off the line after he reacted quickest to a goalmouth scramble following a corner.
The first goal arrived in the 73rd minute after a clumsy foul by Mark Noble on the quick-footed N’Zogbia in the area gave Benteke the chance to open the scoring from the spot, and he did so with supreme calm.
Five minutes later and the points were in the bag for Villa as N’Zogbia curled home a wonderful free kick from 25 yards out.
His left-footed effort beat the four-man wall and was too good for Jaaskelainen as it nestled in the corner of the net.
West Ham grabbed a late consolation through an own goal from Westwood after he accidently flicked Cole’s cross past ‘keeper Brad Guzan, but the home side held on to secure a vital win that lifted them out of the relegation zone, one point clear of 18th-placed Reading.