Michail Antonio did it again on Sunday. The West Ham striker’s second-half strike was enough to earn his side a 1-0 win against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, with the result coming as another example of how clinical a side the Hammers have become on their march to becoming a threat to the Premier League elite.
The Jamaica international’s winner was his sixth goal of the season in the league and it earned his side a hard-fought three points on a tough afternoon at London Stadium. Antonio has developed into one of the most feared centre-forwards in the Premier League with his physique and pace, and since he has been nurtured into the number-nine role in east London he has added more goals to his game.
After his bright start to the season, opposition defences are well aware that he is the focal point of David Moyes’ side and sparks the Hammers into life in the attacking third. And while Spurs defenders Eric Dier and Cristian Romero did brilliantly to shut him out for most of the game, all he needs is that one inviting ball that Aaron Cresswell tends to deliver. His instinctive finish midway through the second half showed again how much he has evolved in a career that has seen him play as a full-back and a winger before combining all the knowledge from his experiences across the pitch to become one of the trickiest strikers in the Premier League to defend against.
He is another great example in football of a player who has had to fight to get to where he is today, and under the mentoring of Moyes he has established himself as a key part of the spine in West Ham’s side. The 31-year-old was struggling to have an impact in the game thanks to Spurs implementing a very clear plan up against him, making sure to crowd players around him when he got on the ball. But for his instinctive finish from Cresswell’s 72nd-minute corner, Spurs’ defence had done its job. Antonio’s match-winning antics also have to be credited as a Moyes masterstroke after his decision to rest the number nine in midweek in the UEFA Europa League victory over Genk.
The hosts started the game with a quick tempo, asserting themselves on the ball quickly, and Pablo Fornals had the first clear-cut chance of the game when he met Jarrod Bowen’s cross with a volley that forced Hugo Lloris into a parrying save. Spurs grew into the first half with Son Heung-min being the spark of his side’s attacking threat. After a bright pass-and-go move, the South Korean international had a low effort saved by Lukasz Fabianski. It seemed as though the hosts were going to break the deadlock as Tomas Soucek rose highest to meet Fornals’ excellent delivery toward the back post, but Soucek’s header went just wide. Down the other end, Spurs came close through Harry Kane’s headed effort which Fabianski tipped over the bar.
The visitors had two great chances to pull ahead but the final passes were lacking for Kane and Oliver Skipp respectively. They continued to make great breaks into the final third to exploit a trailing West Ham defence, but each time they tried to play the ball across to the free man at the far post they made it simple for Fabianski to collect. The game found another spark when Spurs defender Cristian Romero started a scuffle on the sideline, unhappy with the way Fornals went down after his challenge. The result was that he went into Paul Tierney’s book with a yellow card. After seemingly heading for a 0-0 stalemate, Antonio stepped up to open the scoring with an instinctive finish to meet Cresswell’s corner – the full-back’s corner’s being the source of three of the Hammers last four goals in all competitions. The visitors continued to push but they will rue their missed chances when the scoreline was level.
With West Ham moving back into fourth position, their excellent revolution under Moyes continues and now would be a good time to think of how far they can go this season. They are blessed with quality across the pitch, with a very strong spine and the squad is well balanced with experience and youth. Something magic is happening in east London.