Leon Bailey on target as Aston Villa thrash West Ham 4-1
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) — Unai Emery urged Aston Villa to chase their dreams this season after thrashing West Ham 4-1 on Sunday to close within two points of the top of the Premier League.
Douglas Luiz scored twice while Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey were also on target as Villa recorded an 11th-consecutive home Premier League win.
Villa have been transformed in just over a year since Emery took charge, with only Manchester City and Arsenal having won more Premier League points in 2023.
Victory takes Villa up to fifth in the table, but within striking distance of leaders City.
Captain John McGinn has spoken of harbouring ambitions to qualify for the Champions League, and Emery is focused on at least securing European football for a second-consecutive season.
“One of our dreams is to be with the top seven teams and to do something in Europe,” said Emery, whose side are in the Europa Conference League this season.
“To get European football is very important, and that is the work we need to try to do. We need to be consistent in what we are doing.”
Luiz is just one of a number of players who are performing at a different level under the Spaniard, and continued his scoring streak at Villa Park.
The Brazilian became the first Villa player to score in six consecutive home Premier League games when his strike from the edge of the box had too much power for Alphonse Areola in the West Ham goal on 30 minutes.
Luiz then took the chance to double his side’s advantage from the penalty spot early in the second period, after Edson Alvarez tripped Ezri Konsa.
Jarrod Bowen reduced West Ham’s arrears just five minutes later when his shot spun off Pau Torres into the far corner for his 100th career goal.
However, any hope of a Hammers fightback was snuffed out by the in form Watkins on an afternoon that proved a reality check for David Moyes’ men.
“I see the players every day and know the levels. We need to play really well to keep it up with the top six teams,” said Moyes.
“The players are good players but, as you can see, if this is the level we need to reach then we need to improve greatly.”
Fresh from scoring the winner against Australia for England in a rare run out at international level as Harry Kane’s understudy, Watkins blasted in his eighth goal of the season from a narrow angle.
Bailey then exemplified the impressive attacking arsenal that Villa have amassed in recent transfer windows.
The Jamaican was left on the bench as Nicolo Zaniolo started, despite being the subject of an investigation from Italian prosecutors over a betting scandal.
But Bailey made the most of his 15 minutes on the field as he cut inside Nayef Aguerd with a step over and fired into the top corner.