Gerrard faces boos from Aston Villa after Fornals nabs West Ham winner

Losing a game going to a goalless draw has nothing to do with a positive sign. Losing to West Ham in such a way was a desperately bad look for Steven Gerrard AstonVilla. A disastrous first half had suggested a stalemate set in stone, only for Pablo Fornals, via Ezri Konsa’s heel, to end West Ham’s drought.

By climbing from the bottom of the table to 16th place, behind Villa on goals scored, West Ham avoided becoming only the second team in premier league history of losing its first four matches without scoring a goal. The previous team, Crystal Palace in 2017, withdrew their manager Frank de Boer immediately afterwards. David Moyes will not suffer such a fate.

“Performance wasn’t the most important thing; the result was,” said Moyes, who confirmed that Lucas Paqueta had undergone a medical in preparation for completing his move from Lyon. “It’s a victory but you have to start somewhere.”

The pressure pendulum swings more towards Gerrard before six days where his team will face Manchester City, then Arsenal. “I have ears,” Gerrard said, acknowledging Villa fans’ post-match resentment. “I’ve been in the game long enough to know that if you lose three out of four games, that’s not the start you want.”

The winning goal was a litany of small details: Declan Rice, previously chained, allowed progress, Matty Cash was slow to follow Fornals’ run and Konsa may also have been slow to read the danger. On such margins, close games are won and lost and the pressure is on the managers.

It hardly helps when an attack is as straightforward as Villa’s against a West Ham defense which during the first half struggled with unfamiliar form. After losing to Brighton last week, Moyes brought in a back five, with Emerson Palmieri making his debut at left-back. Moyes also offered Gianluca Scamacca a first Premier League start as a centre-forward, but both experiences proved short-lived. “Villa thrived there,” admitted Moyes of his first-half blue-sky thinking.

Gerrard said: “You can say it was cruel and it was bad luck, but we had 90 minutes to score goals.” said Gerard. He added that his side had lacked that “bit of imagination” by proving unable to open up an opponent suffering an identity crisis in the first half.

Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa side have lost three of their first four Premier League games this season.
Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa side have lost three of their first four Premier League games this season. Photograph: Craig Brough/Reuters

Risking Emiliano Buendía in creative tandem with Philippe Coutinho continues to be forbidden and a big part of Coutinho’s detail was staying as close to Rice whenever Villa were out of possession, with the West Ham captain struggling with such attention. Coutinho was far less successful in finding Danny Ings’ runs, however. Villa put the ball in the net in the 14th minute, Konza stabbing home, but their celebrations were cut short when the assistant referee pointed out that Lucas Digne’s corner had bent out of bounds.

West Ham’s five-man defense became four at half-time as Emerson was replaced by Saïd Benrahma. Improvement followed and only Digne’s final intervention stopped Jarrod Bowen from escaping on the counter.

Just after the hour mark, Scamacca got a first sight of goal, only for Calum Chambers to challenge Calum Chambers to clear the sting. The towering Italian was soon replaced by Michail Antonio, with Moyes admitting: “We didn’t give him anything. Scamacca left the pitch just as Coutinho, stopping with a cramp, left to be replaced by, of course, Buendía.

And when Rice came forward to set up Fornals’ goal, he was no longer followed. Clearly missing the memo, Buendía was wide and Emiliano Martínez could only watch the ball spin out of his reach and enter. A loud concern from Villa Park’s Holte End soon followed and there were further moans as Leon Bailey and Jacob Ramsey smashed in late shots.

The final whistle brought relief to West Ham and Moyes and still more angry boos for Villa and Gerrard. “We saw the frustration of our supporters,” said the beaten coach. “There is no one more frustrated than me. I’m all for it working, and so is my staff.

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