Houllier hails fighting spirit

BY foxsports • April 17, 2011

Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier hailed his side's fighting spirit after they came from a goal down to beat West Ham 2-1 at Upton Park.

The Hammers had taken the lead inside two minutes with a strike from Robbie Keane but Villa wrestled back control with Darren Bent's header shortly before the interval.

West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green pulled off a string of top-class saves to keep his side in the game but Villa snatched a deserved victory with a header from substitute Gabriel Agbonlahor in added time.

Villa's victory moved them up to ninth in the table on 40 points, seven clear of the drop zone, while defeat edged West Ham closer to relegation.

"I must give credit to their character because that is what we need when we are in a fight against relegation, you need character and you need composure," said Houllier.

"At times we demonstrated well that in difficulties the team was together and working well.

"When you are in danger you can't have egos in the team and you can't have grudges. You have got to be man enough to put away your own personality and work for each other.

"We were was disappointed at half-time. I said: 'We can win this game'.

"I said to the players before the game that this was a turning point. We missed a turning point at Bolton when we went 2-1 up and we lost the game. I said to them that we would not miss this turning point.

"We were stung and it took us 15-20 minutes to get the spirits right because of the goal we conceded.

"I know every point is valuable but I thought we went for the win right from the start and got the reward. It may have been late but we got it.

"We created chance after chance. We created enough to win the game and from a heart point of view it is not good to wait until added time to score."

Although Villa now have 40 points and are in the top half of the table, Houllier does not yet consider them safe.

"This club (West Ham) went down with 42 points a few years ago so we know what we need to be safe. Our fate is in our hands and we need to keep that going so that means we need to pick up points," said Houllier.

West Ham are one of five teams at the bottom separated by just three points and they now have five games to secure their top-flight status.

The Hammers' next two appointments are away at Chelsea and Manchester City.

"I think we need nine points more or less to stay in the league," said Avram Grant.

"We don't have any intention to give up. We will fight.

"We have won against big teams this season so we can do it. We will fight.

"It was very important for us today but we lost it. It was very crucial, it was the reason the players were nervous. Sometimes they gave the ball away cheaply.

"We need to look forward. I believe it is difficult but I still believe it is possible (to stay in the Premiership."

West Ham were without inspirational midfielder Scott Parker, who is struggling with an Achilles problem that could keep him out of the trip to Stamford Bridge.

The Hammers coped well in his absence in the first half but lost their way as soon as Villa equalised. After the interval it was one-way traffic.

Grant also bemoaned the first-half decision by referee Mark Halsey not to penalise Richard Dunne for a challenge on Carlton Cole, when he was the last man back.

"It is not easy, especially in our team to lose a player like Parker. He is the player of the year. He is very important for us but he is injured. Even with this we were winning," said Grant.

"We made a very good start. We started like we wanted to start. We scored a goal and then I think it was a penalty for us and a red card for them.

"Then we made a mistake in the last moments of the first half that cost us.

"In the second we had chances, they had chances. They scored at the last moment. We are very disappointed."

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