AEK Larnaca 0-2 West Ham: Michail Antonio bags a brace in welcome win
AEK Larnaca 0-2 West Ham: Michail Antonio nets twice in welcome win for David Moyes in Europa Conference League after heavy loss at Brighton piled pressure on Hammers boss
- West Ham beat AEK Larnaca 2-0 in Thursday’s Europa Conference League clash
- Michail Antonio bagged both goals in a welcome return to form the for Hammers
- It came after back-to-back heavy losses against Brighton and Man United
If only the Premier League came as easy to West Ham as the Europa Conference League.
By beating Larnaca, David Moyes’ men made it nine wins from nine in the competition this season and they will target a perfect 10 in next week’s last-16 second leg.
Michail Antonio’s two goals were enough to defeat the Cypriot First Division side located along the coast from Ayia Napa. A few West Ham fans may leave that party town with headaches, but not the players, nor the manager, after this controlled performance.
Moyes selected a strong line-up, resisting the urge to rest Declan Rice. The captain was among several regular first-teamers who started as West Ham target qualification for the quarter finals.
The Premier League remains Moyes’ priority – his ‘bread and butter’ as he likes to call it – and Aston Villa are the next visitors to the London Stadium on Sunday.
West Ham made it nine Europa Conference League wins from nine games on Wednesday
They beat Larnaca 2-0 at a sold-out AEK Arena, as 1,600 Hammers fans travel to Cyprus
It does no harm to warm up with a win, albeit Villa will provide a much sterner test than the one West Ham faced in this idyllic Cypriot city.
Larnaca is not the biggest stadium – 77 of the 92 Football League clubs have a bigger ground – but the 8,000-seater ΑΕΚ Arena was sold out for the visit of Premier League opposition. The 1,600 from West Ham expected a win and Antonio delivered it.
Larnaca grew in confidence amid a flurry of early corners, with one header from Rafael Lopes going narrowly over the crossbar after he nipped in front of Antonio.
Said Benrahma looked like West Ham’s liveliest player and after half an hour, he wriggled his way through Larnaca’s box, beating three men before testing Kenan Piric from a tight angle.
In the 36th minute, West Ham found their breakthrough. Benrahma crossed and Antonio, unmarked after drifting in between Larnaca’s defenders, headed beyond Piric for 1-0.
In first-half stoppage time, Rice played a pass into Antonio. With time to shoot from 25 yards, he curled the ball around Nenad Tomovic and into the top right corner for 2-0.
Michail Antonio scored both goals and came within the post’s width of a hat-trick
Antonio thought he had secured his hat-trick after the start of the second half, but the post denied him the match ball. Moyes made changes after an hour, replacing Antonio, Benrahma and Rice with Gianluca Scamacca, Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek.
Maxwel Cornet also came on for his first appearance since October – a welcome sight for West Ham. Cornet’s terrific through-ball left Lucas Paqueta one on one with Piric, but the Brazilian disappointingly could not find a finish.
The third goal eluded Moyes’ men but nonetheless, they remain nine for nine in the Europa Conference League.
Jose Mourinho’s Roma won this competition last season. Moyes believes West Ham can win it this year and certainly it is providing a feel-good factor away from their Premier League woes.
Larnaca: Piric, Casas, Milcevic, Tomovic, Englezou, Mamas (Altman, 59), dos Santos, Rosales, Sanjurjo, Jakolis (Tirckovski, 77), Lopes (Nikolic, 58)
Subs: Gonzalez, Faraj, Chrisoforou, Naoum, Andreou, Toumpas, Styliandis,
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Areola; Kehrer, Zouma, Aguerd, Cresswell; Downes, Rice (Soucek 60); Benrahma (Bowen 60), Lanzini (Paqueta 77), Fornals (Cornet 83); Antonio (Scamacca 60)
Subs (not used): Johnson, Ings, Ogbonna, Emerson, Hegyi, Anang
Booked: Downes, Kehrer
Scorers: Antonio (36, 45+1)
Manager: David Moyes
Referee: Espen Eskas
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