West Ham United 1 – 1 Aston Villa
West Ham earned a point against Aston Villa which saw David Moyes’ struggling side move out of the Premier League relegation places on goal difference.
Villa striker Ollie Watkins continued his impressive form as he broke the deadlock with a 17th-minute header from left-back Alex Moreno’s sublime cross for his sixth goal in seven games.
The lively Said Benrahma took his opportunity to respond for the hosts from the penalty spot nine minutes later, firing his spot-kick out of reach of World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez after Leon Bailey’s foul on Lucas Paqueta.
Benrahma was the standout attacking threat on either side at London Stadium but the winger saw a powerful strike from distance tipped over by Martinez in the second half among his match-leading 10 shots on goal.
Denied again by Ashley Young’s last-ditch block the Algeria international was unable to inspire the hosts to victory – although the point was enough to take West Ham above Bournemouth, who beat Liverpool on Saturday, to 17th in the standings.
Aston Villa, whose appeals for a penalty of their own were dismissed by the video assistant referee following Declan Rice’s challenge on Emiliano Buendia, remain 11th.
Benrahma excites but Hammers in trouble
The pressure is building on Moyes to prove he can steer West Ham to safety and the urgent need for the Hammers to begin adding to their six wins this season was reinforced by victories for relegation rivals Bournemouth and Everton a day earlier.
Those results saw the Hammers – who have slipped a long way from the heights of securing European football in successive seasons – drop into the bottom three with a third of the season remaining, despite an outlay of around £160m on new players.
And while the draw marginally improved their immediate situation, the fans, just as they did following the 4-0 thumping by Brighton, made their feelings clear as the full-time whistle was met with boos.
Benrahma led by example as the home side looked to put last weekend’s setback behind them, combining driving runs with several quality attempts as he became only the third player to register as many as 10 shots in a Premier League game this season.
But despite landing half of those on target, with Martinez and Young both making crucial interventions for Villa, he could not add to his spectacular penalty as the visitors held out for a point.
Things look rather different for Aston Villa since Unai Emery took charge in November, with their relegation concerns a reassuring 11 points behind them and a top-half finish within reach.
A rejuvenated Watkins has been at the forefront of their recovery, and the 27-year-old has surely put himself in contention for inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad, to be announced next week before the start of the Three Lions’ Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.
Only Marcus Rashford (10), Erling Haaland (10), and Harry Kane (8) have scored more goals in the competition than Watkins since the Premier League season resumed in December.
He expertly arrowed his header into the ground, the bounce beating Alphonse Areola, although he did miss a terrific chance to add to his tally when he shot at the West Ham goalkeeper at close range.