West Ham United 4 Aston Villa 0
David O'Leary's much-publicised march on Europe came to a halt in east London last night as his well-beaten Aston Villa side were handed another heavy dose of capital punishment.
Villa suffered their heaviest defeat of O'Leary's reign when they lost 5-1 on their last visit to London at Tottenham in May. It was almost as embarrassing for O'Leary's expensively-reshaped side as they fell to a Marlon Harewood hat-trick.
Yossi Benayoun's last- minute fourth goal served only to pile on the humiliation of a defeat that, frankly, looked on the cards from the very first whistle.
The ground was bouncing. So were the Hammers, inspired by their 39-year-old talisman Teddy Sheringham.
Benayoun should have put the home side ahead, only to fire weakly straight at Villa goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, and Harewood was so close to converting a Matthew Etherington cross.
A measure of how rattled Villa were could be seen in the way Gareth Barry brought down Tomas Repka in full flight to earn his second caution of the season.
Then came the 25th-minute breakthrough, allied to a hint of fortune.
Paul Konchesky's long ball was headed back by Harewood towards Sheringham, Olof Mellberg slipped in trying to make a challenge and the canny Sheringham simply returned his header into the space behind. Harewood was away and tucked the ball under Sorensen for his first Premiership goal in almost seven years.
Four minutes later, Villa failed to deal with Etherington's right-wing corner and the visitors found themselves two down.
Anton Ferdinand was poorly attended to as he met the corner with a far-post header and Harewood, stood where all greedy poachers should be just in front of the keeper, simply snaked out his leg to flick the ball past Sorensen.
There could have been more but referee Rob Styles was generous in his interpretation of Liam Ridgewell's grapple with Harewood in the penalty area. When Sheringham stole in behind debutant Freddie Bouma on to Nigel Reo-Coker's pass, Sorensen made a brave save.
Villa needed a change of fortune but they didn't get one.
Their other debut boy, James Milner, had tested Roy Carroll for the first time when he cut in and shot well just before the break. They might have been right back in it straight after the restart only for Milner's cross to cannon off both posts, Kevin Phillips powering over with the rebound. There was worse luck to follow.
While the West Ham fans were still screaming for keeper Carroll to receive attention way back down the field in his own goalmouth, Ridgewell conceded a clumsy free kick at the other end.
It brought the youngster a public rebuke from his keeper in the art of how to defend. But, when Etherington's free kick came in, Sorensen found himself badly in need of learning a football lesson or two of his own.
The Dane came haring out to meet the cross but missed it completely and Harewood was unattended at the far post to drill in his hat-trick.
Villa did at least carry some second-half threat, Gavin McCann seeing his volley deflected over off Hayden Mullins' head, while Milan Baros made keeper Carroll save.
But that was not enough to prevent the wicked West Ham fans suggesting to the Czech, a West Ham target in the summer, that he had chosen the wrong claret and blue shirt in which to ply his trade.
Benayoun's coolly-taken fourth in the dying seconds, guided beyond Sorensen from a narrow angle, was merely rubbing Villa noses in it.