Marlon Harewood fired a hat-trick and the tricky Israeli Yossi Benayoun provided the crowning glory as Alan Pardew celebrated his 100th game as the West Ham manager in style with a 4-0 win on Monday night.
Harewood could have spent most of the season languishing on the bench if the Czech international Milan Baros had not snubbed a move to West Ham in favour of a £6.5m switch to Aston Villa. But the Upton Park crowd were left chanting "Baros, what's the score?" after Harewood had fired West Ham to their second Premiership win of the campaign.
Villa created the odd scare in the West Ham box, with James Milner forcing Roy Carroll into a low save and Kevin Phillips lashing a volley into the side netting. But compared to West Ham they offered very little and O'Leary admitted: "The best side won by a mile.
"We need a big response heading into Saturday's game against Spurs, who won't be far off a Champions' League spot this year. We got beaten by five down there last year with a similar attitude. I hope this was a good wake-up call. We were well off the pace and West Ham did to us what we tried to do ourselves. They came out with the desire, the hunger, the tempo. They out-fought us, out-muscled us and the goals we gave away were dreadful."
Villa had a good claim for a penalty early on with the score 0-0, when Anton Ferdinand tugged Phillips back in the box - not that O'Leary felt his side deserved that kind of break. "If we had got that it might have flattered us. Would that have changed the game? No way. This was not a lucky win, West Ham won by a mile."
West Ham broke through after 24 minutes when Harewood linked expertly with Teddy Sheringham and then took advantage of Olof Mellberg's slip to score. Harewood then toe-poked home his second from under Thomas Sorensen's nose to give West Ham a 2-0 half-time lead. Harewood sealed his hat-trick after 50 minutes when Sorensen came charging off his line but got nowhere near Matthew Etherington's free-kick which fell for an unmarked Harewood to smash home from six yards out.
O'Leary lamented: "I'm not saying we were going to win it, but the first goal in the second half had to come from us and we gave an absolute joke of a goal away."
Benayoun then provided the icing on the cake by turning the Villa defender Aaron Hughes inside out before driving a cross-shot low into the far corner.
It sealed a "perfect day" for Pardew, who suffered plenty of heartache as he looked to turn West Ham around and carry them back into the Premiership. They sit seventh in the table with two wins and two clean sheets from four games.
"This was my 100th game and it has been a long road. It feels like a thousand to be honest," Pardew said. "We are riding a wave at the moment so let's enjoy it.
"We had the best training session I can ever remember as a player or manager on Sunday, it was unbelievable so the signs were there we could put in a performance like we did. We go to Fulham on Saturday and they are going well so it will be another good game for us."
Pardew hailed Benayoun as West Ham's very own Zinedine Zidane. Benayoun, a £2.5m summer buy from Racing Santander, scored his first goal in a claret and blue shirt. "He is one of those players that makes you get out of your seat," Pardew said. "He is easy on the eye. He lets the ball drift across him like Zidane and he goes either way. It is very difficult to deal with when you have players like that. He showed a real work ethic against Villa and I think he surprised a few people. He won three headers against a 6ft 1in full-back. There are all sorts of things to his game. I watched him for Israel. There is a presence about him."
Benayoun is a man of slight build and Pardew joked when he signed for West Ham that he needed to be fattened up. But concerns that he would be out-muscled in the hustle and bustle of the Premiership have so far proved unfounded. "I had a feeling he would like this division," Pardew said. "He got better every year in Spain and when you look at his pedigree you have to say he is a thoroughbred horse and hopefully he will get better at West Ham."Reuse content