Antonio Breaks Record and Sees Hammers Top
West Ham United had the second best home record last season and they started their 2020/21 home fixture programme with a thumping 4-1 victory over Leicester City on Monday night.
David Moyes named the same matchday squad that was involved at St James’ Park eight days ago.
West Ham wanted to pick up from where they had left off after winning 4-2 against Newcastle United on the opening day and they took control right from the start.
Saïd Benrahma went close as early as the sixth minute after Captain Declan Rice ghosted past the visitors’ defence and played in Pablo Fornals, who in turn set up the former Brentford man but unfortunately, he couldn’t finish off the move as his curling effort was held by Foxes’ goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
The hosts gradually started to dictate the play and Rice tried his luck again soon after he eventually received possession from Vladimír Coufal’s cross. Unfortunately for the Irons though, his long-range shot went over the crossbar.
West Ham kept creating chances and the next one fell to Michail Antonio. The former Nottingham Forest man shrugged off the attentions of Wilfred Ndidi but couldn’t hit the target.
The home support were finally given something to cheer on twenty six minutes. The skipper robbed Jamie Vardy of possession and found Fornals. The midfielder then set up Benrahma who played the ball back to Fornals and the Spaniard produced a clever finish to beat Schmeichel.
Having gone in front, the Hammers had the chance to add a second in quick succession with two separate attempts. Fornals crossed for Tomáš Souček but the Czech headed narrowly wide before Angelo Ogbonna was to suffer the same fate after connecting with Jarrod Bowen’s corner.
Matters then went from bad to worse for Brendan Rodgers’ side as Ayoze Pérez was given a straight red card by referee Michael Oliver for a high challenge on the calf of Fornals. Oliver initially didn’t see the incident as a serious one but after consultation with the VAR official, he decided to take a look at the pitchside monitor and as a consequence, the Foxes will now be without Pérez for their next three matches.
When the whistle was blown for half-time, the East Londoners would have been hoping that they could make their man advantage count in the second forty five minutes.
Moyes was pleased that his side were a goal up but felt that they should have had more before the break. However, he needn’t have worried, as they certainly made up for it when the action recommenced.
Souček was desperate to add his name to the scoresheet after a goal on Tyneside last time out but he again missed the target after fifty minutes.
Leicester, who had beaten Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 in their opening encounter, were thankful to Schmeichel as he prevented them from falling further behind. The Dane reacted in time to deal with the danger from Antonio after he had met a cross from Fornals.
Souček may have been unable to get on the goal trail earlier on in the match but the same couldn’t be said for Benrahma as he has now doubled his tally for last season with only two games of the current campaign gone.
Antonio pounced on a defensive mistake from Çağlar Söyüncü and he then spotted the Algerian in space so it was left to the man who grabbed the second of West Ham’s four goals at St James’ Park to fire past Schmeichel to claim his first Stratford goal since his move to East London last September.
Schmeichel then thwarted Antonio again as West Ham looked to put in another high-scoring performance. Aaron Cresswell then tried to see what he could do but he only succeeded in sending a volley just wide from the resulting corner.
On sixty nine minutes, Łukasz Fabiański, who had quite frankly been given nothing to do for much of the contest, had to pick the ball out of his net when Youri Tielemans pulled a goal back after his initial shot was blocked by Cresswell.
The East Londoners were still looking comfortable although they now obviously wanted to see if they could widen the margin of victory even further. They nearly did this but Craig Dawson’s header missed the target by inches.
Antonio equalled the club’s all-time Premier League goalscoring record in the opening day victory and in this game, he was looking to break Paolo Di Canio’s record of scoring forty seven goals and he could finally celebrate achieving that feat with ten minutes of normal time to play. Söyüncü couldn’t get near him as he showed great control to blast into the net.
Having broken the record, he wasn’t content with just the one, as he wrapped up the points four minutes later. He linked up with Coufal before giving Schmeichel little chance once again.
Moyes made two late substitutions introducing Mark Noble in place of Benrahma. Seconds later, Andriy Yarmolenko came on for Antonio.
The win means West Ham have propelled themselves to the top of the Premier League for the first time in just over fifteen years.
The home faithful return to Stratford on Saturday when the team take on Crystal Palace in their first London derby of the season.