West Ham’s run for the Champions League is back on track following Michail Antonio’s return from injury to deliver a dominant performance against Burnley.
Antonio was sent off against Wolves four weeks ago due to hamstring strain and his absence coincided with losses to Newcastle and Chelsea that left the Hammers catching up. The forward has caused problems for Burnley throughout and he had already made his physical presence felt when he came home from Vladimir Coufal to cancel Chris Wood’s penalty.
He then hit Said Benrahma’s low ball in the net with the former Brentford playmaker tormenting the hosts who were guilty of poor defense. This despite taking the lead when Wood controlled Ashley Westwood’s long ball and cut inside to be knocked down by Tomas Soucek with referee Anthony Taylor pointing straight ahead.
Wood stood up to take the penalty himself and slid the ball low to the bottom corner despite Lukasz Fabianski guessing the right course for his 11th goal of the season and seventh in as many games.
The New Zealander is clearly having fun against West Ham, his seventh goal against Londoners since arriving at Turf Moor in August 2017.
Burnley is virtually safe and on the verge of safety as David Moyes’ side continue to push for fourth place in the Champions League occupied by Chelsea.
Moyes has made five changes to the squad which narrowly lost to Chelsea last time around with Antonio and Aaron Cresswell back in the starting lineup with Manuel Lanzini, Benrahma and Craig Dawson.
Burnley entered the game looking for everything but security for the Premier League and a sixth consecutive top-flight campaign.
It’s an achievement, but especially this season after taking two points in their first seven games.
Wood’s goals were vital, with the New Zealander hitting double digits for the fourth consecutive season and his partnership with Matej Vydra began to blossom.
There was little note in the early stages although Burnley was given a warning when Antonio made his presence felt as he entered the box and when Burnley failed to clear Lanzini was there to take a shot .
But it was the hosts who managed Wood’s kick, the forward rising to convert following Soucek’s challenge.
However, the lead only lasted two minutes with Bunley punished for poor defense.
The hosts gave the ball away in their own half with a Coufal cross from the right finding Antonio who got between two defenders and came home.
Benrahma then had time to curl up in a center from the left that Antonio touched in the net without challenge despite the presence of four defenders.
West Ham attacked at will and the same duo combined once again with Antonio just inches away from touching Benrahma’s low ball which curled right off the far post.
The former Brentford forward was cutting Burnley and he chose to pass when doing it alone might have been a better option and West Ham was almost punished as Vydra got the wrong side of Issa Diop and threw the ball towards the goal only for Dawson to clear.
The teams were greeted by pouring rain and a strong wind when they reappeared for the second half.
The game continued at full speed with Pablo Fornals firing in a shot that hit Antonio in front of goal but he couldn’t react quickly enough and the ball was cleared.
Fabianski didn’t have much to do, but he had to be smart to fend off Josh Brownhill’s tilt shot with Jay Rodriguez shooting widely in the scrum that followed after his initial shot was blocked as he looked for the 100th. league goal of his career.
Wood nodded broadly and Antonio shot past the post after a careful building game. Substitute Johann Gudmundsson was wide cut as the hosts sought unsuccessfully to equalize.