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Emotional Yarmolenko puts West Ham back on track for Champions League

Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko scored on his return as West Ham beat a stubborn Aston Villa to continue their hunt for a Champions League place.

Victory for David Moyes’ men means they move within two points of Champions League places and above fifth-place Arsenal as their quest for a top four finish continues.

The Hammers were unable to get through Steven Gerrard’s well-drilled Villa in the first half despite dominating the big spells in the opening exchanges.

And it was Villa who almost took the lead nineteen minutes later. A lightning-fast counter-attack from the visitors allowed Jacob Ramsey to cut it down for Philippe Coutinho, but his deft shot was blocked well.

First-half quality was rare and far from certain as a wayward delivery from Cresswell brought the first 45 minutes to an unsatisfactory end.

At 55 minutes, the visitors should have been in front. A scramble in the West Ham penalty area led to Danny Ings firing a low shot into the left corner but Lukasz Fabianski was able to get his hands on it and deflect the ball over the post.

Moments later, the Hammers should have gone past themselves, but Craig Dawson was only able to pass the bar from three yards out after Emiliano Martinez brilliantly stopped Kurt Zouma’s header.

Finally, with 20 minutes remaining, West Ham got the breakthrough they deserved. Said Benrahma whipped a delicious cross to the foot of substitute Andriy Yarmolenko, who pivoted and fired past Martinez to put the Hammers ahead. He was visibly emotional amid the celebrations.

Then, with eight minutes to play, victory was sealed. Benrahma was played after a powerful run from Declan Rice, the Algerian pitted him against Pablo Fornals to fire into the bottom left corner and confirm victory for Moyes’ men.

But just as West Ham fans thought they won the game comfortably, Villa got one back. Ramsey fired from the edge of the penalty area to set up a nervous finish, but the Hammers held on for the win.

The win puts the Hammers well ahead of their crucial Europa League second leg against Spain’s Sevilla.

West Ham: Fabianski 8, Johnson 7, Dawson 7, Zouma 7, Cresswell (Fredericks, 57′) 7, Soucek 7, Rice 7, Lanzini 7, Fornals 7, Antonio (Yarmolenko, 52′) 6, Benrahma (Diop, 87′) 8 .

Unused subtitles: Areola, Noble, Masuaku, Kral, Echezolachuku Oko-Flex, Perkins.

AstonVilla: Martínez 7, Cash 7, Chambers 6, Mings 6, Digne (Young, 10′) 6, McGinn 7, Douglas Luiz (Buendia, 79′) 6, J Ramsey 7, Coutinho 7, Ings (Bailey, 69′) 6, Watkins 6.

Unused subtitles: Olsen, Konsa, Sanson, Traore, Chukwuemeka, Iroegbunam

Arbitrator: Jarred Gillet – 7