Hammers Down to Ten but Unbeaten Run Continues
By Tom Dowsett
Tuesday 17 Sep 2019 13:52:00
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Unlike on his 65th birthday, Manuel Pellegrini wasn't given the result he would have wanted on his 66th. At least his West Ham United side remain unbeaten since the opening day of the campaign, as they were held to a goalless draw by play-off winners Aston Villa at Villa Park on Monday night.

The Hammers' boss named an unchanged side for the third consecutive league game, given their recent run of results.

Both teams had a sizeable break after the internationals and it clearly showed in the opening stages. Early on, the visitors were the first to have a sight of goal but Björn Engels was in the right place to block Andriy Yarmolenko's effort whilst up the other end, Villa striker Wesley Moraes should have done better with his header.

Dean Smith's side had the chance to go into the break ahead but the travelling support were thankful to the ever reliable Lukasz Fabianski, as he made a great save from John McGinn's long-range strike after the Scotsman was set up by Anwar El Ghazi.

Both teams had good chances to grab the advantage before half-time but the scores remained level.

Shortly after the restart, the Irons nearly benefited from a mistake in the hosts' defence as Neil Taylor attempted a risky header back to his goalkeeper Tom Heaton but the home fans were relieved to see the former Burnley stopper make a great save. However, they almost saw their side go in front seconds later. Fortunately though, Fabianski again got the better of McGinn.

Given the level of performance he put in last time out against Norwich City, Yarmolenko wasn't having the best of nights so on 62 minutes, Pellegrini replaced him with Pablo Fornals.

The home side had another great chance when McGinn set up El Ghazi but they couldn't take advantage as Fabianski made another spectacular save to prevent him from breaking the deadlock.

On 67 minutes, the Hammers were dealt a huge blow when Arthur Masuaku was harshly sent off for what referee Mike Dean deemed to be a second bookable offence. He was adjudged to have clipped Villa substitute Ahmed Elmohamady, meaning they would have to last the rest of the game with ten players.

The other Pablo then entered the fray, as Zabaleta replaced Felipe Anderson two minutes later to cover at the back.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the visitors kept going and survived one final scare as Jack Grealish missed the chance to take all three points when he failed to connect with a cross from Douglas Luiz, who had been introduced for debutant Marvellous Nakamba in the 66th minute.

In the first of the four added minutes, West Ham made their final change as Fabián Balbuena came on for captain Mark Noble.

When the final whistle was blown, West Ham's point was confirmed, meaning they had carried their August momentum into September.

They now face a tough looking test against Manchester United and with the Red Devils currently not in a good run of form, the East Londoners will be hoping to draw on the experience of the encounter between the two in Stratford last season and aim to produce a similar result.

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