West Ham off to flying start
London - Premier League new boys West Ham got their season off to the perfect start on Saturday with a hard-fought and controversial 1-0 win against Aston Villa at Upton Park.
Hammers captain Kevin Nolan claimed the winning goal shortly before half-time, but the visitors were incensed after the linesman flagged for offside before changing his mind.
Nolan's strike was enough to secure an opening day win for Sam Allardyce's side, promoted via the Championship play-offs last season, while Villa boss Paul Lambert got off to a losing start following his close-season switch from Norwich.
Both managers fielded four new signings, but it was Lambert's players who started the brighter with Australia winger Brett Holman threatening early on his debut with a long-range shot.
However, the match settled into a pedestrian pace with the blazing sunshine in east London appearing to sap the energy of both teams.
Nolan did his best to bring the game to life, firing a free-kick narrowly wide of the near post after 30 minutes.
The deadlock was eventually broken five minutes before half-time in controversial circumstances.
West Ham's Portuguese forward Ricardo Vaz Te received the ball in yards of space from Mark Noble's free-kick before squaring the ball for Nolan to tap in from close range.
The Villa players immediately surrounded referee Mike Dean claiming that Vaz Te was offside, but replays suggested that the ball came to him off defender Ciaran Clark's head.
Stephen Ireland was the first Villa player to threaten West Ham debutant Jussi Jaaskelainen, but the veteran goalkeeper comfortably held the midfielder's low drive.
It was the home team who felt aggrieved five minutes into the second half when Carlton Cole appeared to be clattered from behind by Dutchman Ron Vlaar.
Dean once again waved away the protests, but West Ham had done enough to take the points.