Victory keeps Villa hopes alive
Aston Villa moved out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three as second-half goals from Christian Benteke and Charles N'Zogbia earned them a 2-1 victory over West Ham at Villa Park.
Benteke broke the deadlock from the penalty spot with his 15th goal of the campaign and N'Zogbia made the points safe with a superb free-kick.
Ashley Westwood's late own-goal could not prevent Villa's first win in nine league games and ended a run of four successive home league defeats.
Villa started brightly and Andreas Weimann missed a golden opportunity to put them ahead after less than two minutes. Hammers keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen failed to hold a dipping shot from Benteke and the rebound fell to Weimann unmarked six yards out, but the Austrian placed the ball wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy.
Andy Carroll, fresh from his winner against Swansea last weekend, was only just too high with a first-time lob which landed on the top of the net and left Villa keeper Brad Guzan back-pedalling. Carroll and Villa defender Nathan Baker both needed lengthy treatment after a clash of heads when attacking the ball from N'Zogbia's corner.
West Ham were forced into a change after 24 minutes with right-back Joey O'Brien suffering a leg injury and replaced by Guy Demel. Villa skipper Ron Vlaar shot just over at the near post after attacking an Ashley Westwood corner but play struggled to move out of second gear during the opening 45 minutes.
West Ham dominated the early stages of the second period possession-wise and appealed in vain for a penalty after a challenge by Vlaar on Carroll. Ciaran Clark made a crucial clearance from a Mohamed Diame ball into the danger area after Guzan had failed to make a clean punch on his attempted clearance.
Lambert made a double change after 63 minutes with Darren Bent and January loan signing Simon Dawkins replacing Jordan Bowery and Weimann respectively. N'Zogbia curled a shot just past the far post after being teed up by Benteke.
After 74 minutes, though, Villa were celebrating as they broke the deadlock. Referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a penalty when Mark Noble had brought down N'Zogbia, and up stepped Benteke to send Jaaskelainen the wrong way with his spot-kick.
With 11 minutes left N'Zogbia doubled Villa's lead with a superb free-kick after Tomkins brought down Bent. Westwood unintentionally set up a tense finale when he headed the ball past Guzan from a Joe Cole cross. Then in injury-time Guzan blocked a shot from Kevin Nolan and turned aside a Carlton Cole header but Villa survived.