Villa denied winning return

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Villa denied winning return

Post  Admin on Sat Apr 18, 2009 11:33 am

Aston Villa were denied a return to winning ways in the Premier League as a late Diego Tristan goal earned West Ham United a 1-1 draw at Villa Park.

Fifth-placed Villa had been in wretched form over recent weeks, and their visitors, who sat seventh at kick-off, arrived in the Midlands breathing down their necks in their race for a place in the maiden campaign of the Europa League.

An early goal from Emile Heskey, who was returning from injury, looked set to allow Villa to record a first league win since defeating Blackburn in early February, but the Hammers hit back in the dying minutes through Tristan.

For the majority of the season Villa had looked set to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, but a winless top-flight run which now stands at eight games has led some critics to question whether even a top-seven finish is a certainty.

A host of clubs have emerged as contenders for continental football, but Villa demonstrated they remain focused, despite seemingly losing their quest to gatecrash the top four, as Heskey netted a close-range opener in the 11th minute.

However, Spanish veteran Tristan spoilt the party in the 85th minute when he deflected an equaliser at a corner to earn a share of the spoils.

Villa played with great fluency with stand-in skipper Gareth Barry instrumental in setting up wave after wave of attacks.

His midfield partner Stiliyan Petrov and winger James Milner also made telling contributions while Heskey and John Carew always demanded close attention up front.
End-to-end

But West Ham played their part in an end-to-end game with Mark Noble a key figure and Villa needed goalkeeper Brad Friedel to make a trio of fine saves before Tristan's late strike.

The Hammers opened brightly and Friedel prevented them taking the lead after two minutes.

Noble threaded a pass into the path of the impressive Junior Stanislas and his darting run took him through the heart of the Villa defence but Friedel managed to deflect his shot just past the post.

Villa threatened seriously for the first time when Barry was only just wide with a glancing header from a Nicky Shorey centre.

And in the 11th minute Heskey put Villa ahead. Barry broke down the left before picking out the run of Milner on the opposite flank, and his low centre was turned home at close range by the England striker.

West Ham quickly responded and Friedel again did well to block an effort from David Di Michele before James Tomkins fired the rebound over the bar.

Green had to be alert to keep out a low drive from a narrow angle by Milner who then had a goal-bound drive blocked by Herita Ilunga.

Noble became the first player to be booked in the 20th minute for a challenge on Barry.

Eye-balling

The game was full of goalmouth action and Ashley Young's 20-yard drive clipped the outside of a post after his initial free-kick had been blocked by the defensive wall.

Heskey almost struck for the second time when he intercepted a back-pass from Noble and clipped his shot at full stretch against the post.

Boa Morte was booked for diving after appearing to go down too easily when challenged by Barry on the edge of the Villa box.

Then Ashley Young was yellow carded after eye-balling Lucas Neill who had brought down the Villa winger.

Villa started the second half on the offensive and came close to doubling their lead within the first two minutes.

Carew showed good skill before flicking his pass through to Heskey whose low shot was blocked by an alert Green.

Luke Young had to be alert to take the ball away from the feet of Di Michele after he found half a yard of space inside the Villa box.

Carew was not far off target with a near-post volley after good play by Luke Young to create the opening.

But he should have doubled Villa's lead when heading over from Ashley Young's inswinging centre.

Friedel protected Villa's lead by pulling off a fine save to deny Boa Morte at close range.

But with six minutes left Tristan deflected in a shot from Dyer which had been going wide after a corner.

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