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?
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
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

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?