Aston Villa lost their first game of pre-season today, with a 3-1 loss against Premier League opposition in the form of West Ham United – with Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic and Robert Snodgrass grabbing the Hammer’s goals.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy) // Follow us on Twitter (@claretandview)
Aston Villa continued their pre-season efforts against West Ham today, who had a new manager and host of new talent to show off – just hours after Steve Bruce was confirmed as the manager leading the Villans this season.
Jack Grealish showcased his talents early on, dribbling towards the West Ham defence and causing them to concede a foul in a promising position on the edge of the box. Adomah shot from the resulting free-kick – but it was easily saved by Adrian.
Aston Villa looked lively against their opponents in the first half an hour, with chances coming predominantly from Jack Grealish and his nimble footwork.
Alan Hutton came close just before the ten minute mark after Elphick headed a cross from Hourihane down. The Scot hit the ball on the half-volley and forced a save from the West Ham keeper.
Michail Antonio then went on a superb, winding run at the ten minute mark – bullishly breaking through the Aston Villa defence before slotting into the left-hand corner past Jed Steer.
The game flipped a little during the next ten minutes, with West Ham enjoying the vast majority of possession.
Aston Villa were cut open once more at the back, before the ball was crossed into the in-form Marko Arnautovic who slotted it past Jed Steer to give West Ham United the 2-0 lead in the 27th minute.
Villa were struggling to get players into key positions higher up the pitch to break the opposition down.
For much of the game, Jack Grealish found himself complaining to the referee about how much he was being fouled – a common sight in the Championship last season.
Just before the end of the first half, it looked as if Jonathan Kodjia had picked up a worrying knock – with the Ivorian floored for some time.
Early in the second half, Grealish found himself bullied off the ball often in his own half – often surrounded by three players at once.
Jack Wilshire came close to making it three as West Ham’s counter-attack cut Villa apart once more, but Jed Steer found himself making a comfortable save before the 50th minute of the game.
In the 56th minute, Jake Doyle-Hayes left the pitch to be replaced by World Cup star Birkir Bjarnason after an energetic performance – with Hourihane, Chester and Elphick all leaving the pitch too for Henri Lansbury, Mile Jedinak and Ahmed Elmohamady respectively.
Shortly after Adomah left the field to be replaced by Ritchie De Laet.
For the vast majority of the first 20 minutes of the second half, the game was largely uneventful.
Birkir Bjarnason looked to have taken a more attacking role than we were used to last season, seemingly playing off forward Jonathan Kodjia – with Grealish dropping slightly deeper.
The Icelandic midfielder came close to putting Aston Villa in with a chance of salvaging a draw in the 73rd minute, volleying the ball straight at Adrian before being called offside.
Just after Bjarnason’s shot, Andre Green and Harvey knibbs took to the field to replace Jonathan Kodjia and Jack Grealish – whilst Gary Gardner replaced Glenn Whelan.
Andre Green showed plenty of energy after coming on, managing two shots in a short space of time – but firing both above the bar.
In the 80th minute, Alan Hutton was replaced by Welsh international Neil Taylor, who slotted into the back three alongside Mile Jedinak and James Bree.
In the 84th minute, former Villa man Robert Snodgrass scored and made it 3-0 – following it with a very understated celebration due to his fondness for the Villa fans – after he found himself one-on-one with Jed Steer who had rushed out to meet him.
Aston Villa responded almost immediately with a rocket from Andre Green. Harvey Knibbs found himself with the ball on the edge of the box, before taking a poor touch which fell to Andre Green kindly. Green thundered it into the back of the net – scoring what could be the best goal of the night.
All in all, it was a comfortable victory for The Hammers – with Villa showing very few positives at the Banks’s Stadium.