West Ham U21 3-0 Villa U21: Disappointing start for young guns
Villa made a disappointing start to the Barclays U21 Premier League campaign, slipping to a 3-0 defeat against West Ham.
First team quintet Gary Gardner, Marc Albrighton, Yacouba Sylla, Jed Steer and Jordan Bowery were all in action at the Rush Green Stadium.
But despite the experienced heads in Gordon Cowans' starting line-up, the Hammers ran out comfortable winners thanks to a brace from Elliot Lee and a late strike from Sebastian Lletget.
Gardner also missed a late penalty for the young lions.
It was tough going for Villa in the first period. Not only did the visitors find themselves two goals down, but they were also forced into two early changes with Sylla and Liam Bateman picking up knocks.
The away team struggled to cope with West Ham's dominance in the early stages.
Lee should have given the hosts an early lead but, after being picked out in space by Blair Turgott, he somehow managed to drag the ball into the side-netting from six yards with the goal gaping.
But he atoned for his miss on 24 minutes, pouncing at the back post to convert Dylan Tombides' inswinging cross from the left.
Janoi Donacien got a head to the cross but couldn't steer it out of Lee's path.
Lee was in the right place at the right time again 10 minutes later to score the rebound after Pelly Ruddock headed George Moncur's corner against the bar.
Summer signing Steer stopped the Hammers from extending their lead further, diving low to his left to get a hand to Moncur's powerful drive.
Villa's best first-half opportunities fell to Gardner and Bowery, who had long-range shots saved by Raphael Spiegel.
Cowans' team responded well after the break and went close to pulling a goal back within two minutes of the restart.
After gathering possession just inside the Hammers half, Donacien drove forward and unleashed a powerful drive which Spiegel pushed over.
Josh Webb also narrowly missed the target with a glancing header from Daniel Johnson's corner, while Gardner saw his 25-yard attempt clip the outside of the post.
On 77 minutes, Gardner had a chance to level with a penalty when Ruddock tripped Callum Robinson inside the box.
But the England U21 midfielder blazed his effort over the bar in a freakish slip from the spot.
In the final minute, Lletget forced the ball home from close range after Villa struggled to clear Moncur's corner.
WEST HAM: Spiegel, Driver, Potts, Whitehead, Chambers, Ruddock, Turgott, Moncur, Lee, Lletget, Tombides. Subs: McCallum [for Tombides, 87], Nemrava, Shaw [for Potts, 89], Nasha, Sadlier.
VILLA: Steer, Lyden, Donacien, Bateman, Webb, Gardner, Sylla, Albrighton, Johnson, Robinson, Bowery. Subs: Sellars, Watkins, O'Brien [for Albrighton, 72], Wildin [for Bateman, 29], Cowans [for Sylla, 26].