West Ham United recorded a crucial victory in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon as the Hammers beat Aston Villa 2-1 at the London Stadium to keep their hopes of European qualification alive.
It took David Moyes’ side 70 minutes to break the deadlock in East London when Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko controlled Said Benrahma’s pass well and finished accurately, sparking incredibly emotional celebrations.
Pablo Fornals doubled the hosts’ lead 12 minutes later but 20-year-old Villa midfielder Jacob Ramsey halved the deficit just before added time to make the final minutes quite nervy for the Hammers.
Although they didn’t manage to keep the clean sheet, it was a solid display from West Ham’s defence, with Kurt Zouma having a particularly impressive afternoon.
According to SofaScore, the centre-back impressively completed 100% of his 38 passes over the course of the 90 minutes and therefore didn’t give away possession once all match whilst making 48 touches and winning 75% of his duels.
Alongside his passing, the Frenchman accurately deployed three long balls and almost scored with a header, only to be denied by an outrageous save by Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez.
At the back, the 27-year-old made six clearances and one interception, however, could’ve improved his display by making a tackle and block.
Alas, the performance emphasised why the Hammers opted to fork out just shy of £30m to secure the defender’s services from Chelsea last summer.
With all the controversy that has surrounded Zouma over the past month, on the pitch the Frenchman has continued to perform for David Moyes’ side and has certainly established himself as the East London club’s best centre-back. In the process, he is helping them to secure a much-deserved European spot.
Angelo Ogbonna won’t play again this season after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury in November whilst Issa Diop and Craig Dawson have alternated partnering Zouma when the Frenchman has been fit, with the duo racking up a combined 59 appearances so far this campaign.
A hamstring injury halted the defender’s season, keeping him out for a month between mid-December and January, but it appears as though now the 27-year-old has fully recovered and is in good form going into the final crunch period for West Ham.
The Hammers have just nine league matches remaining this term, as well as at least one more Europa League match against Sevilla on Thursday, meaning that Moyes’ men will have to produce their best for the final push if the East London outfit are to achieve their goal of qualifying for Europe once again.
After Sunday’s win, United are still sat in sixth and, despite some teams around them having games in hand, it is still somewhat in their hands as they currently withhold a two-point lead over seventh-place Wolves.