Aston Villa missed out on a place in the UEFA Cup after being held to a 2-2 draw against West Ham on Sunday.
Martin O’Neill’s side needed a victory at Upton Park and an Everton defeat against Newcastle to snatch fifth place, but the Toffees won on Merseyside to leave Villa in sixth spot.
Villa had fallen behind early on to Nolberto Solano’s goal before going in front through Ashley Young and Gareth Barry’s strikes. But their frustration at Dean Ashton’s late equaliser was at least tempered by the knowledge that they wouldn’t have been able to overhaul Everton anyway.
Villa almost got the perfect start. Gabriel Agbonlahor slipped a pass to Ashley Young and his shot struck a post.
But West Ham took the lead in the eighth minute. Ashton was felled on the edge of the area and referee Mike Dean immediately signalled for a free-kick. Solano stepped up and curled the ball into the top-right corner with goalkeeper Scott Carson getting a fingertip to the effort.
Villa had to throw caution to the wind to have any chance of catching Everton and they were level just six minutes later.
Former Hammers midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker was the catalyst as he found Young in the penalty area and the Villa forward took advantage of loose marking to fore home.
Bobby Zamora was close to restoring West Ham’s lead with a shot that fizzed wide. But Villa went even closer on the stroke of half-time, with Agbonlahor’s shot cleared off the line by Robert Green.
Villa should have gone ahead five minutes after the interval when Agbonlahor squared to John Carew who only had Green to beat from close range, but the Hammers keeper saved well.
But the visitors were dreaming of a European adventure when Barry played a perfect one-two with Reo-Coker before smashing the ball home past Green from close range.
With Everton drawing at that point the race was back on. However, David Moyes’s side restored ran out 3-1 winners, before Ashton struck a superb equaliser with two minutes left.
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