Match Report: Charles N’Zogbia casts off shackles of doubt against West Ham to lift Aston Villa gloom

Aston Villa 2 West Ham United 1

Aston Villa might feel they have not seen much of a return on the £9.5m they paid for Charles N’Zogbia in the summer of 2011 but if his contribution to their first win in nine Premier League matches turns out to be the beginning of the end of their relegation fears then perhaps Randy Lerner will feel better disposed towards spending money again.

Click here to watch highlights of the game

N’Zogbia, beset by injuries and inconsistent form, had delivered only two top-flight goals in 18 months at the club before yesterday, but it was the French former Wigan forward who brought relief to beleaguered Villa manager Paul Lambert, winning the 74th-minute penalty that Christian Benteke converted to put Villa in front, before curling a delicious free kick beyond the reach of Jussi Jaaskelainen to all but guarantee the points.

Of course, Villa made it difficult for themselves, as they inevitably do.  They have made an unfortunate habit of conceding costly late goals in winning positions – Marouane Fellaini’s stoppage-time equaliser after they had led 3-1 at Everton is the latest example – and when Ashley Westwood diverted a Joe Cole cross into his own net with three minutes left, hearts were in mouths.

In the end, they owed as much to Brad Guzan as to N’Zogbia after the American goalkeeper pulled off a point-blank save to deny Kevin Nolan and, from the resulting corner, kept out a header by Carlton Cole.

Lambert, charged with keeping Villa in the Premier League with the players who have threatened to take them down after owner Lerner’s reluctance to spend in January, admitted he was as nervous as anyone. “It’s hard to explain what it is like in the last few minutes,” he said. “The stress levels are ridiculous. But it’s great when it’s finished and you’ve won.

“It was edgy at the end but I thought we deserved it.  It’s a massive win and a huge thing for our defence to keep them out at the end.  West Ham are a difficult side to play against because of their height and they deserve a lot of credit as they have taken a lot of knocks this year.”

As Villa climbed out of the bottom three for the third time this season, no one was more relieved, you suspect, than Andreas Weimann, who may never miss an easier chance than the one he spurned in the second minute after Jussi Jaaskelainen had allowed a Benteke shot to squirm away from him, doing everything right in positioning himself for the follow-up but somehow sliding the ball wide of the far post with half the goal to aim at.

That moment was still haunting Lambert when Darren Bent, introduced after an hour in place of an ineffective Jordan Bowery, came to Villa’s rescue with a goalline clearance, of all things, to stop Andy Carroll putting West Ham ahead.

Bent’s confinement to the bench had again been a puzzle, given Bowery’s inexperience.  When he was given his chance his own contribution might not have been exceptional, but it did seem to prompt a shift in momentum. At that moment, Sam Allardyce’s side were threatening to deepen Villa’s woes and ease their own after a run of one point from seven matches. But then Mark Noble clumsily brought down N’Zogbia and Benteke, confidence high after five goals in his last four matches, stayed cool despite the pressure of the moment, sending Jaaskelainen the wrong way from the spot.

Four minutes later, Bent drew a foul from James Tomkins and N’Zogbia came up with the perfect free kick from a central position, his delivery climbing over the West Ham wall before swinging away out of Jaaskelainen’s reach.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders