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Nolan strike earns Hammers win
Kevin Nolan's controversial close-range strike ensured West Ham enjoyed a successful return to life in the Barclays Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.
Nolan turned a low cross from Ricardo Vaz Te, who was initially flagged offside only for the assistant referee Simon Long to change his mind.
Villa players complained but referee Mike Dean confirmed the goal and it was enough to give the Hammers a winning start on their return to the Premier League.
West Ham featured two debutants in goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and midfielder Mohamed Diame plus the returning James Collins, who lined up against his old team.
With Paul Lambert in charge for the first time, Villa fielded four summer signings, including Brett Holman whose early 20-yard drive briefly had Jaaskelainen worried.
Holman was involved again after receiving a reverse pass from Stephen Ireland but his cross was cleared by Winston Reid, one of three timely interventions from West Ham's Kiwi defender.
Villa looked marginally the more dangerous going forward - in relative terms - but they were denied by a double block from the dominant Collins, who charged down Karim El Ahmadi and then Ireland.
The game began to spark into some sort of life after 36 minutes when Cole was brought down on the edge of the Villa box by Ron Vlaar. Mark Noble touched the free-kick to Nolan, who drilled it low and through the wall but just wide of Shay Given's right-hand post.
Four minutes later, West Ham had the lead. Noble's lofted free-kick fell to Vaz Te, who pulled the ball back for Nolan to score from close range. But there was more than a hint of controversy about it after assistant referee Long initially flagged for offside, in the belief that Collins had flicked the ball on to Vaz Te, before changing his mind.
The Hammers could have doubled their lead after 65 minutes, when Vaz Te skipped brilliantly past Nathan Baker and cut a low cross back to Nolan, whose shot was blocked by Vlaar and cleared.