February 29, 2024

Douglas Luiz brace helps Aston Villa brush aside West Ham and move up to fifth

Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz celebrates his second goal against West Ham. (Jacob King/PA)

Aston Villa maintained their Champions League charge with a thumping 4-1 win over West Ham.

 

Douglas Luiz’s brace, including a second-half penalty, plus goals from Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey moved them to fifth in the Premier League – just two points off top spot.

 

Jarrod Bowen’s deflected effort made it 2-1 but the hosts recovered for Watkins to smash in a crucial third before Bailey wrapped things up late on.

 

The Hammers, now five points adrift of Villa, slipped to just a third defeat of the season after struggling to match the hosts.

 

Villa had waited long enough for a victory over the Hammers, their bogey side.

 

They had recorded just one win in the last 10 years, a 1-0 victory when Villa were already on the slide in 2015, but under Unai Emery they are a different beast, having earned 10 straight home league wins for the first time in 30 years coming into this match.

 

Emery put his faith in Nicolo Zaniolo, starting while he assists the Italian authorities in their investigation into alleged illegal betting activity.

 

A Sunday afternoon slumber hung over Villa Park in the opening stages but it was roused when Alphonse Areola brilliantly turned Luiz’s 25-yard effort wide.

 

It was a stunning save from the West Ham goalkeeper but he should have been beaten five minutes later.

 

Moussa Diaby’s pass evaded Kurt Zouma for Watkins to turn Vladimir Coufal. The hard work done, the striker had just Areola to beat but dragged inches wide from 12 yards.

 

The momentum was with Villa so there was little surprise when they went ahead after 30 minutes.

 

Zaniolo and Watkins linked on the left with the England striker collecting a cute return pass to tee up Luiz on the edge of the box and he drilled low past Areola.

 

In scoring, the midfielder became the first Villa player to net in six straight home matches in the Premier League.

 

The hosts deserved their lead, Watkins close to doubling it two minutes later when he grazed the side-netting, and West Ham were too compliant as Diaby, Watkins and Zaniolo caused problems.

 

Villa were slicker than the Hammers, who waned in the last third with a final ball missing and Michail Antonio haphazard.

 

Any hopes of a comeback rested on a strong start to the second half but, instead, the Hammers self-destructed after 51 minutes to gift Villa total control.

 

There was little danger when the Hammers looked to play their way out in the corner but Lucas Paqueta’s wretched pass put Edson Alvarez in trouble.

 

Ezri Konsa darted ahead and Alvarez clattered the defender to concede a penalty which Luiz coolly converted.

 

It looked like a Villa cruise but the visitors pulled a goal back out of the blue five minutes later when Bowen’s shot from 25 yards clipped Pau Torres and rolled in the corner.

 

The rarely-seen jitters returned to Villa Park and Matty Cash headed Nayef Aguerd’s strike over before turning Antonio’s dangerous cross behind.

 

Yet Villa ended any hopes of a recovery with 16 minutes left. The Hammers had the hosts on the ropes briefly but were caught out by John McGinn’s long ball to Watkins.

 

The striker, fresh from his winner for England against Australia during the international break, still had plenty to do but sold a dummy to Zouma before drilling into the roof of the net from an angle.

 

Substitute Bailey then wrapped up the points with a minute left, collecting Youri Tielemans’ pass, sidestepping Aguerd and finding the top corner.

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