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Watkins and Bailey see off West Ham with a flourish as Aston Villa go fifth Specific Instances

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Unai Emery can rejoice his first anniversary in control of Aston Villa on Tuesday secure within the data that he has turned his group into real contenders to be thought-about among the many better of the remaining. Solely Manchester Metropolis, Arsenal and Liverpool have gained extra wins over this era and, with Douglas Luiz persevering with his unlikely conversion right into a prolific goalscoring midfielder, Villa moved into a possible Champions League qualification place with their greatest begin to a Premier League season in 1 / 4 of a century.

Not since Dwight Yorke scored in eight successive top-flight residence video games in 1991 have Villa had such a prolific homebird as Douglas Luiz. Not dangerous for a holding midfielder whom Steven Gerrard was prepared to dump final yr.

Constantly backed by Boubacar Kamara within the coronary heart of the midfield, Douglas Luiz has been granted extra licence to assist the assault alongside the likes of John McGinn and, recalled right here as Villa reverted to a four-man defence, Nicolò Zaniolo. The Brazilian was quite typecast as a defensive midfield pivot in his early days at Villa Park, and was strongly linked with a transfer to Arsenal when deemed surplus to necessities right here, however now Emery has unshackled a extra full participant.

Villa and West Ham head into Europe on Thursday with their respective journeys to AZ Alkmaar, within the Europa Convention, and Olympiakos, within the Europa League. However, profitable their eleventh successive residence recreation within the Premier League, Villa look much more prepared on this proof to remain competing for a top-six end.

They have been superior for all however the quarter-hour after Douglas Luiz’s second objective made it 2-0 and it will likely be their supporters elevating a glass of claret whereas the Hammers followers head again to London feeling blue.

Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz celebrates scoring their second objective with Matty Money. {Photograph}: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Pau Torres began the transfer that culminated in Zaniolo taking part in a neat ball again contained in the penalty space for Ollie Watkins. Though his first contact was sharp sufficient, the England striker might see his personal eyeline to objective was blocked so laid the ball again to the sting of the 18-yard field. From there Douglas Luiz confirmed no hesitation in dispatching a crisp and low right-footed shot to which Alphonse Areola might get a hand however not a solution.

It was good work from Zaniolo, the Italy playmaker recalled to the facet that drew 1-1 at Wolves a fortnight in the past. It has been a disconcerting worldwide break for Zaniolo, on mortgage from Galatasaray, after he was withdrawn from his nation squad to assist the investigation into unlawful betting exercise, together with Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali. Zaniolo nonetheless has let it’s recognized he’ll contest any claims he has betted on soccer.

Villa have been fluent within the first half, effectively on prime, and will have been forward earlier than Douglas Luiz’s first objective. Moussa Diaby’s excellent shot was brilliantly, nearly implausibly, tipped behind by Areola. And solely Watkins will know the way, having acquired Diaby’s cross on the half flip 10 yards out, he dragged his shot extensive.

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Before the interval, West Ham did not carry the look of a team competing for the three points that would take the winners of this game into fifth place in the Premier League.

In fact it took them until they went two goals behind to start displaying the spirit that has carried them to this relatively golden period. Perhaps it could be labelled West Ham’s bronze age: two top-seven finishes, banking £100m for Declan Rice while steering away from relegation and winning the Europa Conference, and now eying the top end of the Premier League again.

Anyway, there were no medals on offer for the way they defended five minutes into the second half. They appeared to have cleared a corner when Lucas Paquetá’s terrible pass backwards played Edson Álvarez into trouble and the Mexico anchorman tussled with Ezri Konsa. David Coote took a beat before pointing to the spot, from where Douglas Luiz chipped the ball down the middle to make it 2-0.

Perhaps this was the trigger West Ham required to start making a fight of it. They upped their intensity and soon reduced the deficit, Jarrod Bowen scoring with a shot that deflected heavily off Pau Torres to wrongfoot Emi Martínez in the Villa goal. The England winger can at least claim to have matched Thierry Henry (2001) and Mo Salah (2021) in scoring in his first five away games of a season, a Premier League record.

Matt Cash had to dive to head Nayef Aguerd’s volley behind as West Ham, briefly, threatened to extend their unbeaten run against these opponents to 11 Premier League meetings

Just as West Ham were starting to turn the screw, however, Villa regained their two-goal buffer. Mohammed Kudus miscontrolled the gift of a loose pass out of defence from Torres and McGinn promptly capitalised, immediately sending Watkins away down the inside-left channel with a pass that swerved enticingly into his path. One stepover later, with Kurt Zouma sent for a hotdog, Watkins walloped a coruscating left-footed shot into the near top corner to continue his resurgent trajectory.

Leon Bailey made it 4-1 in the 89th minute as he received Youri Tielemans’ neat pass, stepped inside Aguerd with rather too much ease, and shovelled his left-footed shot into the top corner. It is the first time since 1920 that Villa have scored at least three goals in each of their opening four home league games. On this form, it may not be the last time either.

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