West Ham’s drive for the Champions League got back on course after Michail Antonio returned from injury to deliver a dominant performance against Burnley.
Antonio was forced off against Wolves four weeks ago with a hamstring strain and his absence coincided with defeats against Newcastle and Chelsea that left the Hammers playing catch-up. The forward caused problems for Burnley throughout and he had already made his physical presence felt when he headed home Vladimir Coufal’s cross to cancel out Chris Wood’s penalty.
He then touched Saïd Benrahma’s low ball into the net with the former Brentford playmaker tormenting the hosts who were guilty of some poor defending. That despite having taken the lead when Wood controlled Ashley Westwood’s long ball and cut back inside only to be felled by Tomas Soucek with referee Anthony Taylor pointing to the spot.
Wood got up to take the penalty himself and slotted the ball low into the bottom corner despite Lukasz Fabianski guessing the right way for his 11th goal of the season and seventh in as many games.
The New Zealander clearly enjoys himself against West Ham, that his seventh goal against the Londoners since his arrival at Turf Moor in August 2017.
Burnley are all but safe and stand on the brink of safety while David Moyes’ side continue to push for the fourth Champions League spot occupied by Chelsea.
Moyes made five changes to the side that narrowly lost to Chelsea last time out with Antonio and Aaron Cresswell returning to the starting line-up along with Manuel Lanzini, Benrahma and Craig Dawson.
Burnley came into the game looking to all but guarantee Premier League safety and a sixth straight campaign in the top flight.
That is some achievement but especially so this season after taking two points from their first seven games.
Wood’s goals have been vital with the New Zealander reaching double figures for the fourth straight season and his partnership with Matej Vydra has started to flourish.
There was little of note in the opening stages although Burnley were given a warning when Antonio made his presence felt as he drove into the box and when Burnley failed to clear, Lanzini was there to curl a shot over.
But it was the hosts who went ahead through Wood’s spot-kick, the striker getting up to convert following Soucek’s challenge.
However, the lead lasted just two minutes with Bunley punished for some poor defending.
The hosts gave the ball away in their own half with Coufal’s cross from the right finding Antonio who got between two defenders and headed home.
Benrahma was then allowed time to curl in a cross from the left which Antonio touched into the net unchallenged despite the presence of four defenders.
West Ham were attacking at will and the same duo combined once more with Antonio inches away from getting a touch on Benrahma’s low ball which curled just wide of the far post.
The former Brentford attacker was cutting through Burnley and he chose to pass when going it alone may have been a better option and West Ham were almost punished as Vydra got the wrong side of Issa Diop and lofted the ball goalwards only for Dawson to clear.
The sides were greeted by teeming rain and driving wind when they re-emerged for the second half.
The game continued at full-throttle with Pablo Fornals firing in a shot which hit Antonio in front of goal but he could not react quickly enough and the ball was cleared.
Fabianski had had little to do but he had to be smart to push away Josh Brownhill’s angled shot with Jay Rodriguez firing wide in the ensuing scramble after his initial shot was blocked as he sought the 100th league goal of his career.
Wood nodded wide and Antonio fired past the post following neat build-up play. Substitute Johann Gudmundsson sliced wide as the hosts searched in vain for an equaliser.