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Match report: Villa 3-0 West Ham
Downing, Petrov and Milner on target, as Kevin MacDonald's reign gets off to a dream start.
14th Aug 2010
Match report: Villa 3-0 West Ham


By Dan Harrison

If further proof was needed that Villa are in safe hands under Kevin MacDonald, this was it.

This was a simply barnstorming performance from the boys in claret and blue to get the 2010-11 campaign, and the post-Martin O'Neill era, off to a winning start.

MacDonald admitted in his pre-match press conference to waking up in the middle of the night on a couple of occasions this week, mulling over team selections ahead of his debut in the hotseat.

He need not have worried. Villa were in full flow, with Stewart Downing, Stiliyan Petrov and James Milner ensuring there will be sweet dreams for the caretaker boss after his first match at the helm.

It was fitting that Marc Albrighton and Ciaran Clark, pivotal figures in MacDonald's all-conquering reserve side over the past three seasons, had big parts to play.

The duo were named in an attacking Villa starting line-up, with Ashley Young again tucked behind John Carew in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

While Clark was flawless at the back, Albrighton terrorised the Hammers defence all afternoon and had a hand in the three goals on his inaugural Premier League start.

First of all he teed up Downing to give MacDonald a dream start.

The former Middlesbrough man is another star who is flying at the moment, having just completed his first full pre-season at the club.

He has promised the Villa faithful some big performances this term and clearly wasn't about to waste any time here.

With 14 minutes played, Downing found himself in the right place at the right time to score from close range, when Robert Green could only parry Albrighton's first time volley, after Villa had bombarded the visitors' penalty area.

Few could argue the lead wasn't fully deserved.

Rampant Downing had already provided exquisite crosses for two team-mates in the opening five minutes, although both headed narrowly off target.

Firstly, Richard Dunne rose highest in a crowded penalty area but couldn't keep his header down, before John Carew nodded wide after a clever short free-kick routine between Ashley Young and Downing.

If West Ham felt like they had been let off the hook, it was nothing compared to a comedy of errors from James Tomkins, who came within a width of a post of finding his way on to the next Danny Baker DVD.

Carew capitalised on a poor touch from Tomkins and muscled his way into a goalscoring position.

The alert Green got a foot it at the crucial moment but looked on helplessly as his tackle ricocheted off the shin off Tomkins and came back off the post.

The Hammers keeper had to be at full stretch to tip over a cheeky lob from Ashley Young as Villa turned on the style in the first half.

But he could do nothing about the bullet header from Petrov which doubled the home side's advantage.

Again, Albrighton was involved. He found Ashley Young on the edge of the box with a neat reverse pass.

Young crossed and the captain timed his arrival to perfection to head home with poise and power.

The only chance of any note Avram Grant's side could muster came when Brad Friedel parried Luis Boa Morte's low drive from an angle.

When MacDonald delivered his first half-time team talk as caretaker, it is a safe bet that the words "more of the same" would have featured.

His team duly obliged, refusing to take their feet off the gas after the restart.

Albrighton took centre stage with a series of mesmerising runs on both sides of the pitch, ensuring a torrid afternoon for full-backs Tomkins and Herita Ilunga.

On 66 minutes, he weaved his way inside from the left touchline, leaving two defenders trailing before cutting back for Milner to power home a left-foot shot from 18-yards.

No wonder the Holte End were singing his name loud and proud.

Minutes earlier, the Tamworth-born star picked out Carew at the near post although the Norwegian couldn't connect cleanly with a cheeky flick.

Carew and Downing both hit the woodwork in the latter stages as Villa supporters rejoiced at some delightful attacking football from their team.

MacDonald also found time to hand Premier League debuts to two more of his reserve stars, Andreas Weimann and Barry Bannan in the final minutes.

There were a couple of let-offs for the claret and blues in the second period.

Tomkins volleyed wide after latching on to Ilunga's perfect cross-field ball, while Julien Faubert drove off target when ex-Villa loanee Carlton Cole laid off a right-wing centre from substitute Frederic Piquionne.

But, by then, Villa Park was already toasting an incredible opening day triumph.

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