Great Britain

West Ham 2 Aston Villa 1: Grealish wonder strike not enough for Villa as Hammers go fifth after Watkins penalty miss

JARROD BOWEN caught Villa cold at the start of each half on a night we saw the good and bad of Jack Grealsh.

The West Ham wideboy delivered the corner for Angelo Ogbonna to nod the opener ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SECONDS into the first half.

Bowen then restored the Hammers lead with what turned out to be the winner with a flick only TWENTY-NINE SECONDS into the second.

In-between England’s new poster-boy Grealish levelled for the visitors with a stunning strike before the break.

But the Villa skipper blotted his copybook - and mugged himself right off - with a disgraceful piece of play-acting during a second-half spat with Pablo Fornals which saw John Terry and a Hammers coach booked.

Grealish, an early contender for Player of the Year, could also be in line for an Oscar after he theatrically threw himself to the floor in a bid to show the Spaniard kicked out at him.

There is no doubt Fornals did lash out, but TV replays showed the contact - if any - was minimal, while Grealish’s reaction was delayed and diabolical.

The cameras did Villa no favours as they tried and failed to start the Prem season with a record-equalling fourth consecutive away victory - with Ollie Watkins having a stoppage-time ‘equaliser’ ruled out by VAR for offside.

West Ham also had to be grateful to Watkins smashing a 71st minute penalty against the crossbar as they continued their best-ever start to a home campaign at the London Stadium since moving here in 2016.

The Hammers’ season appeared to turn on their Covid outbreak in September - before which they had lost both of their opening Prem matches.

Since then they have lost just one of their eight League games, winning three and drawing one of their four at home.

This soulless stadium will never be regarded as home by diehard Irons, but at least they now have players who feel comfortable playing there.

Boss David Moyes made one change to his side which won 1-0 at Sheffield United last time out, with Michail Antonio coming in for leading scorer Sebastien Haller.

And it was the recalled frontman who helped get the Hammers off to a flyer - as he controlled and laid off Arthur Masuaku’s long-throw into the box to Tomas Soucek, whose powerful shot towards goal was brilliantly blocked by Matt Targett.

The resulting corner was then headed home by Ogbonna at the far post to put the hosts 1-0 up with less than two minutes played.

As the corner was being taken in this empty stadium you could hear Villa defender Tyrone Mings telling his team-mate Targett - who was marking Ogbonna: “Don’t foul, don’t foul.”

Unfortunately the full-back did not jump either as Ogbonna netted with ease.

Villa came back into it, with Trezeguet dragging a weak shot just wide and Ezri Konsa headed over from Targett’s deep cross before Conor Hourihane’s free-kick palmed away for a corner by West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Grealish then provided another moment for his sensational showreel when he collected the ball in midfield, burst forward and fired home from 20 yards to level the scores in the 25th minute.

Sadly for the Hammers, Vladimir Coufal showed nothing like the same skill or composure as he blazed well over the bar when presented with the chance to restore their lead from a similar distance moments later.

Villa showed why their away form had been so good as they finished the half the stronger with Ollie Watkins firing wide with a shot from inside the box - and Hourihane doing likewise with another free kick from outside it.

Antonio’s return from injury lasted just 45 minutes as he was subbed at half time.

His replacement Said Benahima made an immediate impact as he crossed for Bowen to head the Hammers back in front just TWENTY-NINE SECONDS after the restart.

Back came Villa once more, as John McGinn had a deflected away for a corner and Trezeguet was denied by a Fabianski’s stunning point-blank save - when he really oughta scored.

A niggly clash threatened to turn nasty when Grealish and Fornals clashed.

The fallout spilled to the touchline where Villa No2 John Terry and a member of the Hammers backroom team were both booked.

And the controversy did not end there as Villa were awarded a 71st minute penalty when Trezeguet was brought down in the box by Declan Rice - and then accidentally kicked in the face by the England man.

But Watkins hit the bar with the resulting pen to continue his miserable run from the spot.

The £32m striker has now missed four of his last six pens in the League.

And his woe did not end there as he was denied a last-gasp leveller when VAR Stuart Attwell decided he was fractionally offside.

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