Nolan nails hapless Villa
Midfielder grabs controversial first-half winner at jubilant Upton Park
Last Updated: 18/08/12 7:02pm
West Ham made the perfect start to the new Premier League season thanks to a 1-0 victory at home to Aston Villa.
Kevin Nolan's controversial close-range finish five minutes before half-time was enough to seal all three points.
The skipper turned home a low cross from Ricardo Vaz Te, who was initially flagged offside only for the assistant referee Simon Long to change his mind.
Villa players complained but referee Mike Dean confirmed the goal pointing to the centre circle.
Substitute Modibo Maiga should have added a second deep into second-half stoppage-time, but Nathan Baker got back to make a superb clearance off the line.
Villa were short of ideas and failed to muster a real opportunity in front of goal.
West Ham featured two debutants in goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and midfielder Mohamed Diame plus the returning James Collins, who lined up against his old team.
With Paul Lambert in charge for the first time, Aston Villa fielded four summer signings, including Brett Holman whose early 20-yard drive briefly had Jaaskelainen worried.
Holman was involved again after receiving a reverse pass from Stephen Ireland but his cross was cleared by Winston Reid, one of three timely interventions from West Ham's Kiwi defender.
West Ham did not create any real pressure until Matt Taylor played Carlton Cole into the box, forcing Villa to concede a 14th minute corner. But nothing came of it.
Villa looked marginally the more dangerous going forward - in relative terms - but they were denied by a double block from the dominant Collins, who charged down Karim El Ahmadi and then Ireland.
The game began to spark into some sort of life after 36 minutes, when Cole was brought down on the edge of the Villa box by Ron Vlaar.
Mark Noble touched the free-kick to Nolan, who drilled it low and through the wall but just wide of Shay Given's right-hand post.
Four minutes later, West Ham had the lead. Noble's lofted free-kick fell to Vaz Te, who pulled the ball back for Nolan to score from close range.
But there was more than a hint of controversy about it. Assistant referee Simon Long initially flagged for offside, in the belief that Collins had flicked the ball on to Vaz Te before changing his mind.
Villa players complained immediately as West Ham celebrated, and referee Dean consulted with his assistant before confirming the goal.
West Ham began to grow as the game went on and Cole was convinced he should have had a penalty when he went down under a challenge from Vlaar.
The Hammers could have doubled their lead on 65 minutes, when Vaz Te skipped brilliantly past Nathan Baker and cut a low cross back to Nolan, whose shot was blocked by Vlaar and cleared.
Just after the hour mark, Taylor swung in a dangerous free-kick from the right touchline which Cole rose to meet but the former England striker directed his header wide.
Vlaar tried his luck from 35 yards out but the final word could have gone to West Ham replacement Maiga on his debut.
The Mali striker, on for Cole, was released by a long ball as Villa chased the equaliser and he rounded Given but Baker got back to clear off the line.
|West Ham United||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||2|
|4||Shots off Target||5|
|30.8||1st Half Poss.||69.2|
|34.5||2nd Half Poss.||65.5|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||16||28|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||16||17|
|18||Queens Park Rangers||16||14|