West Ham United 1-1 Aston Villa
By Kris Goman
Above: Adriana Leon celebrates after putting West Ham United ahead after just eight minutes. Photo: Sky Sports.
Dagenham is turning on the good weather for this important early-season game. Both teams with a lot to prove today but a draw gets them each a point in a hard-fought game with West Ham unable to break their long-standing hoodoo of not winning at home.
West Ham dominated in the first 20 minutes but once Aston Villa settled into the match, it was a much more even affair.
It’s Emily Gielnik’s debut for Villa in this match. Up against her Matildas teammate, Mackenzie Arnold, who is in goal for West Ham. A lot is expected of the dynamic Australian forward, coming off a successful Olympic campaign.
Five minutes in, Dagny Brjynarsdottir sends a ball central to Adriana Leon from the left but Leon’s shot goes wide to the left of the goal.
Most of the possession is with West Ham early on and there is a sustained attack. Lisa Evans ran onto a ball into the box, beating Anita Asante, to pass back to Leon who flicks the ball past the keeper, Hannah Hampton, on the left. West Ham score after just eight minutes.
A badly timed pass back to the keeper, Hampton, sees her well off her line in a race with Leon. They both get to the ball at the same time and it bounces towards the box into the open. Villa defenders got back in time to save it but could have been disastrous for the visitors.
West Ham is on fire with another run into the box by Brynjarsdóttir. She passes to Leon who crosses. The ball is then bouncing around in the box narrowly avoiding another goal. It goes out and comes back in culminating with a shot by Brynjarsdóttir across the goal.
Almost immediately afterward Lisa Evans gets a shot on goal collected by Hampton.
It’s been all Irons until about 18 minutes in and Gielnik gets the ball, turns on it, and shoots. It’s high over the crossbar but it’s the first action she’s seen and the first time Villa looked threatening.
Villa get a free kick just outside the box after captain Remi Allen is literally bowled over. It goes straight to Arnold in a wasted opportunity.
The second city side’s first serious attack sees Alisha Lehmann bringing the ball down the right and passing to Gielnik. After a quick one-two in the box, Gielnik shoots and is denied by Arnold in her first on-target save of the match. The resulting corner floats over everyone as Villa miss another opportunity to score.
A long ball to Lehmann sees her dance around the top of the box before shooting. It’s safely in Arnold’s gloves but some nice moves by Lehmann and Villa are looking much more engaged after the early domination by West Ham.
42 minutes in and Allen takes a long-range shot on goal that goes a tad high but at this stage, Villa seem to be a lot more in control and on the front foot. Soon after Chaney Boye-Hlorkah brings the ball into the box and takes a shot that sails across goal and out.
As they come back on from halftime, things are looking pretty even. 49 minutes in and Gielnik passes to Lehmann who takes it into the box and then goes down. She calls for a penalty but it’s not forthcoming.
Sarah Mayling sends a lovely ball through to Gielnik but she’s offside and Arnold has the shot covered anyway.
A long ball down the right to Leon sees her cross to Brynjarsdóttir who heads the ball directly into Hampton who somehow manages to stop a certain goal by being in exactly the right place at the right time.
64 minutes in, Abbey-Leigh Stringer is tackled by Maz Pacheco and Allen and grabs Pacheco as she goes down. Allen is complaining about it and when Stringer gets up, she gives her a good shove. Ruesha Littlejohn runs into the melee trying to calm things down and Stringer gets a yellow for her troubles and the decision goes the visitors way.
Almost immediately afterward Littlejohn and Stringer contest a ball. Stringer gets ahead and Littlejohn grabs her around the throat and brings her down. Stringer is livid understandably and Littlejohn gets a yellow for her act of revenge. Gotta love a bit of biffo in this game.
After a thwarted West Ham attack, Villa get a shot on goal that’s easily stopped by Arnold. West Ham launch another attack through Leon down the right. Her cross goes straight to Hampton though. Claudia Walker takes another shot shortly after from a distance but its also gathered safely by Hampton.
Immediately after, Petzelburger gets a shot that hits the right post and Gielnik sends the rebound out on the right.
At 74 minutes, Walker is off to be replaced by Lois Joel for West Ham. At 83 minutes Littlejohn comes off to be replaced by Shania Hayles as Villa take a free-kick. It gets to Allen in the box but she kicks it straight to Arnold who has it safe.
Shortly after, a ball comes into the box for Hayles. She rounds Lucy Parker and shoots but Arnold gets a hand to it and it’s out for a corner in a very close call. The corner bounces around and is finally sent out wide by Pacheco.
With two minutes of normal time to go, Hayles gets a corner with a deflection off Gilly Flaherty. It goes to the far post and Asante takes a shot that’s cleared. It’s eventually out for a goal kick. The pressure is definitely on.
There’s four minutes of added time. With two of them left, things get crazy in the box. It’s bouncing around from a throw-in and Petzelburger gets it across to Allen to head it past a wrong-footed Arnold for the equalizer. Wild scenes as it’s 1-1 with 90 seconds left. The final whistle goes and it’s a draw between pretty evenly matched teams.
West Ham are left still looking for that elusive home win but both teams can take a lot away from this match. Solid defence and keeping on both sides. Good attacking but finishing needs a little refinement as a couple of genuine chances went begging. Aston Villa recomposed themselves well after the early West Ham goal. This made for a very entertaining match.
Teams: WEST HAM UNITED: Arnold, Wyne, Stringer, Flaherty, Evans, Walker, Longhurst, Parker, Filis, Leon, Brynjarsdóttir. Subs: Leat (GK), Joel, Cairns, Garrard.
Scorer: Leon 8.
ASTON VILLA: Hampton, Mayling, Allen, N’Dow, Asante, Lehmann, Arthur, Gielnik, Boye-Hlorkah, Littlejohn, Pacheco. Subs: Rogers (GK), Petzelburger, Hutton, Haigh, Gregory, Blindkilde, Davison, Hayles.
Scorer: Allen 90+2.
Referee: Kirsty Dowle.