Agbonlahor propels Villa towards safety

West Ham 1 Aston Villa 2

Gabriel Agbonlahor propelled Aston Villa towards Barclays Premier League safety and edged West Ham towards relegation with an injury-time winner at Upton Park.

The Hammers had taken the lead inside two minutes with a strike from Robbie Keane but Villa wrestled back control with Darren Bent's header shortly before the interval.

West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green pulled off a string of top-class saves to keep his side in the game but Villa snatched a deserved victory with a header from substitute Agbonlahor in added time.

Villa's victory moved them up to ninth in the table on 40 points, seven clear of the drop zone, while Avram Grant's struggling side slipped deeper into trouble.

The Hammers have five games left to save their season. The next two are away at Chelsea and Manchester City.

West Ham had billed the game as a celebration of the "Best of British" in anticipation of St George's Day and the Royal Wedding and there were 14 players from these shores in the two starting line-ups.

Scott Parker was missing for West Ham with a troublesome Achilles and replaced in midfield by Gary O'Neil while Carlton Cole, Victor Obinna and Lars Jacobsen all came into the team beaten 3-0 by Bolton last weekend.

Aston Villa featured two changes from their victory over Newcastle, with Emile Heskey and former Hammers captain Nigel Reo-Coker replacing Agbonlahor and Jean Makoun.

West Ham had promised a "traditional street party atmosphere" and the Upton Park faithful were waving their claret and blue pennants inside two minutes after Keane opened the scoring.

O'Neil's blocked shot from a West Ham corner fell to Thomas Hitzlsperger, who lofted a header towards Keane on the edge of the six yard box.

Keane was played on-side by Ashley Young, who had been marking the far post, and the on-loan Tottenham striker turned to rifle his shot past Brad Friedel.

Keane was heavily involved in a bright West Ham start. He turned James Collins and played in Cole but the England striker was denied by Luke Young's block.

Villa came close to an immediate response when Young cut in from the left and ghosted past Jacobsen but his strike was deflected wide by Matthew Upson.

Stiliyan Petrov's interception sparked another Villa attack and Heskey had Bent in support but he was closed down by the West Ham defence.

In an action-packed game, West Ham then had strong penalty appeals turned down after Cole was bundled over by Richard Dunne as he chased Keane's long ball.

Dunne, the last man back for Villa, made contact just outside the area as Cole was primed to shoot. Referee Mark Halsey looked towards his assistant for guidance but gave nothing.

West Ham kept coming forward and Cole forced a smart near-post save from Friedel after he had been fed by a long pass from O'Neil.

Villa thought they had equalised after 23 minutes with a Bent header but it was disallowed by referee Halsey for a push on Jacobsen.

Villa began to enjoy a period of possession but West Ham stayed patient in defence, allowing the visitors to move the ball around without any real penetration.

But all that work was undone when Mark Noble was caught in possession inside the West Ham box and Villa pounced.

Heskey robbed Noble of possession and Young curled in the cross for Bent, who got in front of Wayne Bridge and flashed his header past Green.

Bent's goal sparked a key shift in momentum. There was no sense of a street party inside Upton Park now, just nervous tension as Villa started the second period with a new lease of life.

The visitors were only denied the lead by two magnificent saves in quick succession from Green in the West Ham goal.

Upson's fluffed header allowed Bent to steal in but his low strike from a tight angle was blocked by Green's one-handed save and the ball shepherded out for a corner.

Cole cleared Collins' powerful header off the line before Noble conceded a careless free-kick on the edge of his own box.

Young curled his shot around the West Ham wall but Green was quick to get across and turn the ball behind with a flying finger-tip save.

Grant, who had been forced to replace Manuel Da Costa with Danny Gabbidon in the first half, sent on Zavon Hines for Obinna and then Ba for the injured O'Neil.

Villa remained the more dangerous side. Young flashed a shot across the face of goal and Bent scuffed a golden chance to win the game after being picked out in the box by Walker.

West Ham could not create anything meaningful. Hines saw a snapshot blocked by Dunne and Hitzlsperger skied his follow-up effort.

And in the first minute of injury time, Villa finally got their just desserts with Young finding space down the left and picking out substitute Agbonlahor to head home the winner.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines