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West Ham 3 Aston Villa 0 By Martin Lipton, PA Sport
Big John Hartson continued his love affair with this season's Coca-Cola Cup to
lead the Hammers into the last 16.
The Welsh dragon had scored his first senior hat-trick against Huddersfield in
the last round. And tonight he took full toll of Villa's defensive weakness to
claim another double to take his season's tally to 10.
The first came after just eight minutes, and was the perfect finish to a
superb move inspired by Eyal Berkovic.
Berkovic's slide-rule pass down the right sent Tim Breacker galloping away
past Alan Wright, and when he delivered, Hartson rose above Riccardo Scimeca to
glance in off the far post.
Frank Lampard then steered in the second as the Hammers took a control of the
game after just 16 minutes.
And any thoughts of a Villa comeback were demolished when Hartson did it again
10 minutes from time.
Substitute Ian Bishop crossed from the left and Hartson chested the ball down
and darted between Simon Grayson and Wright before poking past Mark Bosnich into
the bottom corner.
That was more than enough against a shot-shy Villa side who had plenty of
possession but never really looked like scoring.
And while the scoreline was tough - there was not really three goals' worth of
difference between the sides - Harry Redknapp's men had what they lacked...the
killer touch that could take them to Wembley for the first time since 1981.
Villa, just one defeat in eight, might have been the form team, but were
effectively finished off before many late-comers had taken their seat.
The danger signs were there for Brian Little's side as early as the sixth
minute, when it needed a superb diving save by Mark Bosnich to prevent the
ill-starred Iain Dowie claiming his first goal in a year after Hartson had
But there was nothing the Australian could do two minutes later as Berkovic's
genius unlocked the Villa back line.
And more magic from the Israeli brought the second. His ball put Dowie in on
goal, although Ugo Ehiogu blocked the Ulsterman's original shot in the air.
But when the ball found its way back to the hobbling Dowie, he spotted
Berkovic 14 yards out.
Berkovic, who might have shot, committed the Villa defence towards him as
Lampard stole into position on the edge of the box.
And when the ball was teed up the midfielder steered past the flat-footed
Bosnich with the inside of his right foot.
Villa were shell-shocked by the double blow, and for all the scheming of
Dwight Yorke his strike partners Stan Collymore and Savo Milosevic were getting
little change from a defence excellently marshalled by Rio Ferdinand.
Collymore in particular, playing his last game before starting a three-match
ban after his red card at Bolton, cut a forlorn figure for a Villa side who
failed to trouble debut-making Craig Forrest before the break.
Nor, despite an abundance of possession, much after it, even though the
Hammers were forced into two injury switches by the interval, Breacker and Dowie
making way for Keith Rowland and Bishop, and lost their shape as a result.
Collymore did send in Ian Taylor for the first on-target effort of the night
just before the hour, Forrest saving comfortably, before Collymore for once
turned Ferdinand only to snatch at his effort.
And after all that defending the Hammers could have nicked a third in the 68th
minute, when Hartson rose to meet Berkovic's left-wing cross with a header that
forced a scrambling save from Bosnich.
With time running out, Little gambled, sending on Gary Charles, Grayson and
Sasa Curcic for Nelson, Gareth Southgate and Milosevic, but the die was long
since cast, as Hartson emphatically proved.
West Ham: Forrest, Breacker (Rowland 22), Potts, Unsworth, Hartson, Lomas, Dowie (Bishop 46), Ferdinand, Lampard, Impey, Berkovic.
Subs Not Used: Sealey.
Goals: Hartson 9, 81, Lampard 17.
Aston Villa: Bosnich, Nelson (Charles 71), Wright, Ehiogu, Scimeca, Southgate (Grayson 71), Taylor, Draper, Milosevic (Curcic 71), Yorke, Collymore.
Ref: S J Lodge (Barnsley).