West Ham 1-1 Aston Villa: VAR plays its part as hosts denied second-half stoppage-time winner

Undefeated in eight home head-to-head encounters, West Ham United made one change from their 5-0 midweek UEFA Europa League thrashing of SC Freiburg as Emerson returned to replace Aaron Cresswell at left-back.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa headed to the London Stadium undefeated in eight matches in the capital under the stewardship of Unai Emery, but would have to do without captain John McGinn following his red card against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

AVL: Martínez; Konsa, Torres, Lenglet, Moreno; Luiz, Tielemans, Rogers, Bailey, Durán, Watkins

WHU: Areola; Coufal, Mavropanos, Zouma, Emerson; Souček, Álvarez; Bowen, Paquetá, Kudus; Antonio

Seeking their first away head-to-head victory since April 2011, UEFA Champions League qualification-hopefuls Villa began in affirmative fashion as Ollie Watkins – who had recovered from being taken off in the first half against Ajax on Thursday – and Morgan Rogers forced smart saves from Alphonse Areola. In response, Vladimír Coufal’s rebounded effort was well saved by FIFA World Cup winning goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez as the game at the London Stadium began to burst into life.

However, it did not take long for West Ham to break the deadlock as Michail Antonio bravely dived in ahead of Ezri Konsa’s boot in the 29th minute to head in his first goal since returning from a long injury lay-off. Mohammed Kudus would have a goal disallowed before half time for a foul – as the hosts finished the first half in the ascendancy.

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In response to being behind at the break, Villans manager Unai Emery introduced an attacking change to his tactics as Matty Cash and Moussa Diaby replaced Clément Lenglet and Jhon Durán. Despite this, West Ham thought they had doubled their lead after only four minutes of the second half, but to Antonio’s frustration, the combination of referee Jarred Gillett and VAR ruled out another strike for an act of handball on this occasion.

Youri Tielemans went close to an equalising goal with half of the second half gone, but Areola again came out on top against the Villa attack. Nonetheless, the Hammers’ shot-stopper was helpless to prevent an equalising goal from finally coming in the 79th minute, as second-half substitutes Diaby and Nicolò Zaniolo exquisitely combined – allowing the onrushing figure of the latter to fire the former’s delicious delivery from the byline into the back of the net.

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Amid a plethora of yellow cards, with it looking like both teams would have to settle for a share of the spoils, Tomáš Souček thought he had won it right at the death for West Ham. However, VAR again took centre stage, advising Gillett – after a prolonged five-minute delay – that the initial decision to award a goal should not stand after the discovery that the ball had struck the arm of the Czech midfielder on its way into the net.

Late drama at the London Stadium sees Villa move three points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, but the latter still with the potential advantage of having a game in-hand – as the end-of-season finale for UEFA Champions League qualification continues to remain uncertain. Meanwhile, West Ham remain in seventh position – nine points adrift of the final European spot – as it stands.