West Ham ended a three-game winless run by seeing off 10-man Aston Villa 2-0 at Upton Park in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Michael Antonio netted his third goal in Hammers colours shortly after half-time, as rock-bottom Villa were unable to stand up to the challenge of playing most of the match without Jordan Ayew, who was dismissed for violent conduct inside 15 minutes.
Villa had not managed an away victory in the Premier League since the opening day of the season and, following Ayew’s red card, never looked like recovering.
Remi Garde’s team managed just one shot on target across the 90 minutes and could well have been on the wrong end of a thrashing but for a handful of saves from goalkeeper Mark Bunn.
As it was, West Ham had to make do with Cheikhou Kouyate’s 85th-minute effort at the end of a lightning-quick counter-attack to register a first victory in four games in all competitions and maintain their push for European qualification.
It could have been so different for the visitors, who began the match much the brighter of the two sides.
Winston Reid’s last-ditch clearance prevented Micah Richards from tapping home a corner at the back post within four minutes of kick-off.
Referee Jon Moss waved away the visitors’ claims for a penalty when Gabriel Agbonlahor’s cross struck the arm of Antonio and Villa seemed to have control of the game prior to Ayew’s moment of madness just after the quarter-hour mark.
The Ghanaian threw his elbow into Aaron Cresswell’s face, leaving Moss with no option but to issue the forward with his marching orders.
Despite having an advantage in numbers, the Hammers still struggled to find rhythm in their forward play. Enner Valencia somehow steered James Tomkins’ volley over the crossbar from less than six yards out as West Ham’s frontline spluttered around in second gear.
Slaven Bilic evidently got in the Hammers’ ears during the interval, as the home side emerged with renewed intensity.
Payet flashed a free-kick against Bunn’s right-hand post from a narrow angle and Villa’s defence groaned under constant West Ham pressure until, with 58 minutes gone, it caved in.
Mark Noble’s excellent 40-yard diagonal pass picked out Antonio, who headed beyond Bunn first-time from 12 yards out.
For the remainder of the contest, the hosts looked like scoring on each of their forays forwards, and they eventually added a second with five minutes left.
After clearing their lines from a Villa corner, West Ham burst down the right through Valencia and the striker fed Kouyate to saunter into the box and beat Bunn with ease to wrap up three simple points for Bilic’s men.
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