UK Football

Antonio return boosts West Ham’s Champions League hopes

Defeat to Chelsea last week looked as if it might have cost West Ham a place in next season’s Champions League. But David Moyes’ team aren’t giving up that easily.

They responded to adversity once more with a battling win at Turf Moor on Monday, and they had one man to thank.

Michail Antonio had missed their last three games with injury, but he was back here to show what they’ve been missing. The striker was the difference on the night, making his presence felt with an astonishing first half performance that turned Burnley’s early lead on its head.

Michail Antonio's header flies in
Antonio’s header flies in | Gareth Copley/Getty Images

He had hardly been in the game when Vladimir Coufal’s cross came spiralling onto his head, but he sent it beyond Nick Pope with interest, giving his team a lifeline after a shakey start to the game.

That came just two minutes after Chris Wood’s penalty had given Burnley the lead and it kicked the Irons into life. Within ten minutes of conceding, they were ahead, and while Said Benrahma deserves much of the credit for his wonderful delivery, it was Antonio who got the slightest of touches to steer it into the far corner.

A quieter second half from the big man ensued, but with Benrahma as his wing-man, he continued to prove his value to the team with his relentless ability to hold onto the ball.

Michail Antonio, Ben Mee
Ben Mee tries to tackle Antonio, lol | Gareth Copley/Getty Images

He took on the role of that obnoxiously good player at five-a-side, fully aware of the fact he’s so much better than everyone who is trying to tackle him. He skipped past challenge after challenge to keep his team on the ball and in the lead, edging them towards a potentially priceless win.

The win leaves West Ham in a tantalising position in their pursuit of Champions League football. They lost successive games to Chelsea and Newcastle heading in, but they now sit just three points off fourth. With four games remaining, it is all to play for.

Their last four fixtures read Everton (H), Brighton (A), West Brom (A), Southampton (H). Three of those teams are firmly rooted in the bottom half of the table.

Antonio, in this sort of form, will be licking his lips

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