David Moyes’s West Ham side survived a second-half penalty scare and benefited from the intervention of VAR in added time to secure the victory that moves them fifth and extends their best start to a season since moving to the London Stadium.
Moyes’s team struck in the opening moments of both halves, Angelo Ogbonna putting them ahead and Jarrod Bowen restoring the lead after Jack Grealish’s equaliser. But the outcome might well have been different had Ollie Watkins not suffered a double disappointment, first when his penalty — awarded for a tug on Trezeguet’s shirt by Declan Rice — not struck the bar, and then when his added time effort was ruled out for offside.
Villa’s hopes of matching the top-flight record of successive clean sheets in their opening four away games lasted less than two minutes. 110 seconds in fact. And frustratingly for Smith, the breakthrough came after his side had already failed to heed a warning in the build up to the goal.
Arthur Masuaku’s long throw was allowed to bounce into the path of Tomas Soucek and the Czech midfielder would have put the home side ahead but for an excellent block by Villa left-back Matt Targett. The reprieve proved temporary, however, with Ogbonna taking advantage of the lack of organisation in the Villa defence to rise above Targett at the far post to meet Jarrod Bowen’s corner and head West Ham into the lead.
Moyes’s side, though, failed to build on that early advantage and by the middle of the first half Villa had begun to assert themselves. Defender Ezri Konsa should have done better than loop a header onto the roof of the net following a short corner routine while it took an excellent save from Lukasz Fabianski to keep out Conor Hourihane’s free-kick.
The pressure was growing on the West Ham defenders and they buckled in the 25th minute when. Grealish conjured an excellent individual effort for the equaliser. The midfielder collected a pass from right-back Matty Cash and ran from deep before beating Fabianski with a powerful shot from 20-yard, helped by a deflection off Ogbonna.
Hourihane, who was making his 150th Villa appearance, came close putting the visitors ahead with another well-worked free-kick towards the end of the first half that curled around the defensive wall and into the side-netting.
West Ham were relieved to reach half-time and Moyes’s decision to make a double change confirmed he was unhappy with his side’s display. The changes delivered immediate success with the Hammers again starting the half in dramatic fashion, with Bowen heading home from substitute Said Benrahma’s cross after just 26 seconds.