By George Overhill

28th Aug, 2022 | 3:56pm

West Ham secured a vital first three points of the season with a tight 1-0 win at Aston Villa with a much improved performance that took off in the second half.

A lively opening 10 minutes soon gave way to an attritional first half, with the Irons struggling to get into a rhythm and being forced to chase the ball for long periods.

Things improved after the break as the attacking threat grew from David Moyes’ visitors and the first Premier League goal of the season finally came when Pablo Fornals’ shot from distance flicked off Ezri Konsa and over Emi Martinez for the lead, before a Declan Rice reemergence saw the club hold out for a huge win.

Here, West Ham Zone rates the Hammers players out of 10 for their performances at Villa Park.

Lukasz Fabianski – 6

Not tested on too many occasions but was there when called upon.

Ben Johnson – (off for Coufal ’23) 6

Had made a lively start to the game, snapping into a few tackles down the right and getting forward early, before he pulled up with an unfortunate injury and was replaced.

Thilo Kehrer – 7

Better. Still doesn’t look completely comfortable yet having been thrown very much in at the deep end at West Ham, but acquitted himself well in a busy first period. Grew into the game as his team did and was more composed after half-time. Moyes will be happier to have him than not.

Kurt Zouma – 8

Key to this side at the moment. The defence looks far more formidable with him in the line-up. Despite the boos greeting his every touch he was a towering presence in the centre of the backline as the Irons struggled to hold onto possession in the first half, and more of them same as they improved. For all Villa had a lot of the ball in the game generally they didn’t have a lot of chances which was plenty to do with Zouma.

Aaron Cresswell – 6

Pretty composed afternoon both in a back three and then in his usual left-back spot. Responded to the arrival of Emerson well with a tidy display. Nothing special but no mistakes.

Emerson – (off for Benrahma ’46) 6

In his first Hammers start he started with plenty of intent, pushed up high and combining well with teammates, while getting back to cover diligently. Fairly encouraging in a largely flat first half. Unlucky to be withdrawn at half time although the team did improve without him.

Declan Rice – 9 (Man of the Match)

Finally the real Declan Rice has been spotted, better late than never. After some strangely off-colour recent performances he made his presence felt in the opening exchanges. Still a relatively quiet second half but played an important role in the build-up to the opener. A changed man after that as he charged into tackles and drove forward with the ball. More games like the final 20 minutes would be a huge boost for this side. If he’d played like that from the start he’d have been pushing 10/10.

Tomas Soucek – 7

After the midweek match with Manuel Lanzini next to him to hold the fort he looked more of a barrier to the defence with Rice restored. Did what he needed to do. Looked the stronger of the midfield pair for long periods but will happily play second fiddle if Rice has reactivated.

Jarrod Bowen – 5

Nowhere near his best. Willing as ever but spent most of the first 45 toiling in attack without success. Had a glorious opportunity to put his side ahead early after the break when put clean through but allowed Lucas Digne to get back when last season he might have dispatched it with ease. Nothing really worked on the day but gave his all.

Pablo Fornals – 7

Good game and made some vital contributions. Got a huge slice of luck when his shot was deflected in for the first goal of the season, but he will care as little as the fans. A few sharp exchanges in the opening minutes gave way to a half of closing down out of possession. Freed Bowen for a great opportunity after the half that came to nothing.

Gianluca Scamacca – (off for Antonio ’65) 5

Not the performance he would have been looking for from his first Premier League start. Not necessarily entirely his fault but had little impact. Isolated up front and not found by teammates. Difficult assignment at Villa Park but side will need to play to his strengths better. Got lucky when his slack marking of Philippe Coutinho was punished for what looked like the opening goal at a corner, but the ball was ruled to have gone out on the way in. Held the ball up as best he could in a barren opening half.

SUBSTITUTES

Vladimir Coufal – (on for Johnson ’23) 5

Wasn’t put under a great deal of pressure defensively after the half and combined well in attack. Risked conceding a penalty late on but it would have been soft.

Said Benrahma – (on for Emerson ’46) 7

Hard to escape the conclusion that West Ham are a better side with him in the team at the moment. Pressed well and his introduction brought about a distinct improvement after the half. Had looked good in Denmark in midweek and probably should have started here.

Michail Antonio – (on for Scamacca ’65) 7

Had the benefit of coming on with the Irons in the ascendency but provided what he needed to with presence up top to make the ball stick down field as much as possible.