Gre­al­ish pro­vides magic mo­ment to

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By Matt Law

West Ham United 1

Yar­molenko 85 1 As­ton Villa

Gre­al­ish 84

It had to be Jack Gre­al­ish. The As­ton Villa cap­tain’s first goal since Jan­uary may not have been the win­ner, but it ef­fec­tively en­sured his boy­hood club’s stay in the Premier League.

Villa had been wait­ing since the restart for Gre­al­ish to pro­duce some­thing spe­cial and he left it un­til Dean Smith’s side needed it most.

With Bournemout­h win­ning at Ever­ton, Villa knew that a sin­gle goal for West Ham would rel­e­gate them as they en­tered the fi­nal stages at the London Sta­dium.

Gre­al­ish had been quiet for much of the game, but he fi­nally came to life to give Villa some much-needed breath­ing space by smash­ing in an 84th-minute shot that West Ham goal­keeper Lukasz Fabi­an­ski failed to stop.

The 24-year-old ran straight for his Villa-sup­port­ing man­ager Smith and the vis­it­ing bench, and, although An­driy Yar­molenko equalised a minute later with a shot that un­for­tu­nately de­flected off Gre­al­ish’s boot, the Mid­lands club were soon cel­e­brat­ing again.

Smith’s play­ers hud­dled in­side the empty London Sta­dium as they waited for con­fir­ma­tion that Wat­ford had failed to bet­ter their re­sult at Arse­nal and when it came they bounced in ju­bi­la­tion.

Just over a cou­ple of weeks ago, Villa had looked doomed but eight points from their fi­nal four games saved them on the fi­nal day.

The mid­week vic­tory over Arse­nal had pulled Gre­al­ish and co out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone and not once on “Sur­vival Sun­day” did they drop below the dot­ted line de­spite some tense mo­ments. At­ten­tion will soon turn to whether Gre­al­ish’s goal proves to be his last in Villa colours, but all that is for another day. With their Premier League sta­tus se­cure, the club can fi­nally look for­wards, in­stead of over their shoul­der.

That will surely in­clude en­trust­ing another Premier League sea­son to Smith, who man­aged his team bril­liantly through lock­down and the restart af­ter they had ap­peared to be in freefall.

Overnight stays and 1am de­briefs with his play­ers paid off and the ca­ma­raderie and team spirit he de­vel­oped was again on show in London, the city in which Villa had lost nine suc­ces­sive Premier League games go­ing into their vi­tal clash.

Tyrone Mings never stopped scream­ing in­struc­tions at his team­mates and it was the Villa de­fender who shouted “there’s still a long way to go” as West Ham kicked-off af­ter Gre­al­ish’s goal.

Those words proved to be spot on, as Yar­molenko set up a tense fin­ish, but Mings then guided Villa through the fi­nal five min­utes of nor­mal time and four more min­utes of stop­page time in which the vis­i­tors man­aged to keep West Ham away from their goal.

This was a re­sult ow­ing as much to de­ter­mi­na­tion and de­sire as it did to skill, as Villa proved to be the club who kept their heads dur­ing the fi­nal few games as Wat­ford lost theirs. Michail An­to­nio’s early miss, af­ter Issa Diop’s long ball was mis­judged by Ezri Konsa, had been the clos­est West Ham had got to scor­ing be­fore the late drama.

An­to­nio had to be sub­sti­tuted at half-time af­ter be­ing booked for a foul on John McGinn and look­ing like he might earn a sec­ond yel­low card.

Gre­al­ish had spent part of the first half ar­gu­ing with Ryan Fred­er­icks, who had got away with a stamp on Villa’s cap­tain two years ago while play­ing in the play-off fi­nal for Ful­ham. The pair clearly still held a grudge and Gre­al­ish had the chance to ex­act some re­venge shortly be­fore half-time with Villa’s best chance of the open­ing pe­riod. McGinn’s pass was touched into the mid­fielder’s path by Conor Houri­hane, but his shot was curled far too close to Fabi­an­ski.

Bournemout­h’s half-time lead at Ever­ton meant Villa could drop into the rel­e­ga­tion zone if they con­ceded a goal, but they restarted the sec­ond half quickly. As the half wore on, Villa started to look in

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