West Ham swept aside relegation threatened Aston Villa 2-0 at Upton Park on Tuesday night (February 2).
Barely two minutes into the game and West Ham put Villa immediately on the back foot as fans' favourite Dimitri Payet dazzled opposing right back Micah Richards only for the Frenchman’s effort to hit the side netting.
But it was the visitors who made the early weather, pressurising the West Ham defence and maintaining possession.
But the early work was undone in one rash moment. Striker Jordan Ayew’s reckless and unnecessary elbow to the face to Hammers left back Aaron Cresswell meant Ayew was given a straight red card by referee Jonathan Moss after 18 minutes.
With a one-man advantage the east Londoners started to find their rhythm and midfield powerhouse Cheikhou Kouyate's shot on the turn was easily handled by Villa goalkeeper Mark Bunn.
The closest either team came to notching the first goal of the game fell to Ecuadorian attacker Enner Valencia for the hosts. James Tomkins' first-time drive from Payet’s corner was going wide but Valencia intervened as his header rose over the bar with 15 minutes of the first half remaining.
Tomkins yet again had the chance to get a shot on target but the left footed shot went high and wide.
Towards the end of the first-half Valencia’s spectacular 30 yard free kick went narrowly wide as the forward tried to amend for his earlier miss.
The Hammers created an early opportunity early in the second half. Cresswell’s teasing cross found winger Michail Antonio who took a wild swing at his volley.
Slaven Bilic’s men came out of the blocks flying and had two magnificent chances to take the lead. James Collins directed header across the six yard box only needed a touch from a claret and blue shirt but Villa’s Richards produced a sublime saving clearance. Captain Mark Noble was unlucky not to mark his 350th appearance for West Ham with a goal after his stinging volley was well parried by Bunn.
But later Noble's driven pass found Antonio in the penalty area who beautifully guided his header into the goal.
On loan Barcelona midfielder Alex Song and Kouyate both had chances to double the Hammers lead in quick succession as the Boleyn Ground side looked more than comfortable against the Premier League’s basement club.
As Villa starred down the barrel in this game, Cresswell was inches away from making it 2-0 with a rasping drive with his right foot. With Villa down to 10 men West Ham were now treating this like a training session. Moments later, Payet’s curling effort was well handled by Bunn.
With five minutes left West Ham sealed all three points with a fantastic counter attack from a Villa corner. Valencia found Kouyate who produced a great finish to seal the victory.
West Ham: Adrian, Tomkins, Reid, Collins, Cresswell; Song, Kouyate (Obiang, 90), Antonio (Jelavic, 88), Noble ©, Payet; Valencia (Moses, 86).
Subs: Randolph, O’Brien, Oxford, Cullen.
Aston Villa: Bunn, Richards, Okore, Lescott, Cissokho; Bacuna, Gana-Gueye, Veretout, Gil (Richardson, 71); Ayew (Sent Off, 18), Agbonlahor (Sinclair, 79).
Subs: Guzan, Clark, Lyden, Grealish, Mason