English Premiership

Tristan blows Villa away

2009-04-18 19:30
West Ham United's manager Gianfranco Zola gestures during the match (AP)

Birmingham - Aston Villa's fading challenge for a Champions League place suffered another blow as Diego Tristan gave West Ham a 1-1 draw at Villa Park on Saturday.

Martin O'Neill's side are now seven points behind fourth-placed Arsenal with only five games to play, while the Gunners also have an extra match in hand.

After holding a strong position in the top four in February, Villa have gone nine games without a win to slump down to fifth place.

Despite creating plenty of chances, and with the boost of Emile Heskey's first-half strike behind them, they simply couldn't kill West Ham off and Tristan levelled with six minutes remaining.

Form of his career

The Hammers should have gone ahead after just two minutes when Luis Boa Morte set Junior Stanislas clear and presented the youngster with a clear opportunity to score only his second league goal.

Stanislas tried to pick his spot, but placed his shot too close to Brad Friedel.

Villa looked edgy early on - until skipper Gareth Barry took a hand. The England midfielder has been in the form of his career at times this season and was at his best again as he sparked his side into life.

Barry almost opened the scoring after ten minutes, heading just wide.

A minute later, he provided the pass from which James Milner picked out Heskey, who bundled home his second goal for the club.

Heskey almost netted again seven minutes later, with Barry this time providing the cross, and went even closer after 28 minutes when Mark Noble's back pass fell short of Robert Green, but steered his shot against the post.

Squared up

West Ham lived dangerously at the back and had to re-organise when James Collins limped off injured.

But Gianfranco Zola's men should have levelled when James Tomkins blazed over after David Di Michele's shot was blocked before Green scrambled across his line to keep out a shot from Stilyan Petrov.

Referee Rob Styles angered home fans when he booked Ashley Young after the youngster squared up to Lucas Neill, and again at the start of the second-half when he waved away penalty appeals after Carew was brought down by Matthew Upson.

Carew almost had his revenge minutes later, deftly lifting the ball over the defence to Heskey, whose shot was blocked by Green.

Barry was in the thick of it again when Villa almost increased their lead on 66 minutes, setting up Luke Young, whose near-post cross was volleyed into the side netting by Carew.

Lobbed back

West Ham continued to be wasteful and substitute Savio blazed another chance high and wide minutes after replacing Stanislas.

Friedel was Villa's hero again ten minutes from time, thrusting out a leg to prevent Boa Morte equalising.

But there was nothing Friedel could do six minutes from time when Noble's cleared corner was lobbed back in by Kieron Dyer and Tristans header earned West Ham a deserved draw.

Noble then almost nicked the points with a deflected effort which Friedel tipped over as Villa hung on before a late penalty appeal after Carew was felled - ignored by Styles - had O'Neill punching the air in frustration.



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