Milner sends Villa fans home happy

James Milner turned the jeers to cheers after his strike sealed a 3-0 home win over West Ham in what could be his final Aston Villa outing.

Last Updated: 14/08/10 at 17:25 Post Comment

Milner: Celebrates his goal

Milner: Celebrates his goal

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The England international appears to be on the verge of signing for Manchester City in a deal, believed to be worth £30million, which could see Stephen Ireland move in the opposite direction.

Milner's name was booed when it was read out before Saturday's Premier League match but his second-half strike at the Holte End brought Villa Park to its feet. It was not a bad way to sign off.

Villa were already well in the ascendancy, courtesy of first-half goals from Stewart Downing and Stiliyan Petrov, as they proved there can be life after Martin O'Neill.

Kevin MacDonald was left to take charge after O'Neill walked out as manager earlier in the week but Villa put all that disruption behind them with a commanding performance.

Ashley Young and Marc Albrighton ripped the hapless Hammers to shreds, Downing was named man of the match and Villa were unfortunate not to have won by double the scoreline.

Albrighton, who made his England Under-21 debut in midweek, was given his first Premier League start and he looked right at home while West Ham failed to handle Young's pace and movement.

Villa started like a train and barely let up in intensity.

Richard Dunne and John Carew both missed with close-range headers after being picked out by Downing before West Ham's defending touched on the farcical.

Carew should have put Villa ahead when he latched on to a dreadful back-pass from James Tomkins. A poor first touch gave Robert Green time to race off his line and his deflection ricocheted off Tomkins and onto the post.

Somehow West Ham cleared but a Villa goal seemed inevitable and it duly came after 15 minutes.

Green parried Young's fierce cross out to Albrighton, who volleyed the rebound goalwards and forced the West Ham keeper into a diving save.

But Green could only push the ball to Downing who scored from the six-yard line. The officials waved away West Ham's strong appeals for offside.

Young almost doubled Villa's advantage when he escaped the West Ham defence but Green produced an excellent save to tip his shot over the bar.

Milner thought he had won a penalty when he was challenged by West Ham debutant Winston Reid on the edge of the box but referee Mike Dean waved play on.

Reid was struggling on his Premier League debut and was even penalised for a foul throw as West Ham failed to relieve the almost constant pressure.

Carlton Cole made one powerful run past Dunne and into the Villa box but he had no-one in support and his shot was dragged across the face of goal.

West Ham's defence was all at sea as Downing and Albrighton made the most of the space and time they were being afforded down the flanks.

Albrighton once again got the better of Herita Ilunga before pulling the ball back to Young, who picked out Petrov's driving run into the box, and the Bulgarian headed Villa into a 2-0 lead.

Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel was called into serious action only once in the half and he was equal to Luis Boa Morte's shot after the former Portugal international had made space inside the box.

Grant sent on Pablo Barrera and Frederic Piquionne in the second half and West Ham briefly flickered into life but Tomkins powered a header wide of Friedel's post.

Barrera's first real contribution was to concede a free-kick, which Downing curled towards the top corner and Green was relieved to see it dip just over the bar.

But Villa soon wrapped up the game. Albrighton bustled his way past Tomkins and pulled the ball back for Milner, who lashed a first-time shot past Green.

Milner barely celebrated in front of the Holte End but he did acknowledge the standing ovation from the Villa Park crowd after being replaced before the end.

Villa pushed for a fourth goal and Petrov picked out Carew in the box but the Norwegian striker once again failed to find the target with a close-range header.

Carew then squeezed a shot against the post but the ball refused to go in, rolling across the line, and Young could only turn it into the side-netting.

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