English Premiership

West Ham exploit Ayew's red-mist moment

Cheikhou Kouyate (Getty Images)
Cheikhou Kouyate (Getty Images)

London  - Aston Villa paid the price for Jordan Ayew's early dismissal as West Ham United enhanced their European prospects with a 2-0 home win in the Premier League on Tuesday.

Bottom club Villa started brightly at Upton Park, but never recovered from the 17th minute dismissal of Ghana forward Ayew, who was shown a straight red card for a senseless elbow on Aaron Cresswell.

Michail Antonio broke the deadlock with a header in the 58th minute and Cheikhou Kouyate netted late on as Slaven Bilic's side extended their unbeaten run at home in the league to 10 games.

West Ham remain sixth, a point behind fifth-place Manchester United and six points off the top four, while Villa continue to look doomed, 10 points from safety with only 14 games to play.

Villa manager Remi Garde has expressed grievances over his side's failure to strengthen in the January transfer window, but with West Ham loan signing Emmanuel Emenike still awaiting international clearance, there were no new players on show for either team.

Villa were crushed 4-0 by Manchester City in the FA Cup on Saturday, but their start was more in keeping with a team pursuing a fourth league game without defeat.

Showing five changes, the visitors forced West Ham onto the back foot and had a penalty appeal waved away in the 10th minute when Gabriel Agbonlahor's left-wing cross struck Antonio on the arm.

But shortly after Ayew, 24, undermined all his side's early promise by blatantly swinging his left elbow into the face of Cresswell, leaving referee Jonathan Moss no choice but to brandish a red card.

Predictably, the momentum tilted immediately in West Ham's favour.

Kouyate saw a curling shot easily saved by Mark Bunn, James Tomkins lashed over with his left foot and Enner Valencia sent a free-kick dipping just the wrong side of the left-hand upright.

West Ham continued to turn the screw in the second half -- Villa goalkeeper Mark Bunn parrying a stinging Mark Noble volley and touching a free-kick from Dimitri Payet onto the post -- and in the 58th minute, the hosts' pressure told.

Noble's raking 40-yard pass from just inside the Villa half picked out Antonio, who deftly steered a header past Bunn.

Cresswell and Noble both went close to scoring before Kouyate sealed victory in the 85th minute by capping a rapid counter-attack with an assured finish from Valencia's pass.