Antonio boosts West Ham’s CL bid, West Brom headed for relegation - GulfToday

Antonio boosts West Ham’s CL bid, West Brom headed for relegation

West Ham

West Ham’s Michail Antonio (second left) heads the ball to score against Burnley during their EPL match at the Turf Moor Stadium in Burnley on Monday. Associated Press

West Ham maintained their surprise challenge for a place in next season’s Champions League as Michail Antonio scored twice to beat Burnley 2-1 on Monday.

With Antonio and other key players out injured, West Ham’s improbable bid for a first ever Champions League qualification was thrown off track.

One by one, they are returning. And a top-four finish in the Premier League - toppling some of English soccer’s biggest teams along the way - could still be on.

Antonio marked his comeback game after nearly a month out with two goals as West Ham rallied to beat Burnley and move within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea with four games left.

West Ham’s run-in - featuring games against Everton and lowly trio Brighton, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton - appears more benign than that of Chelsea, which must still play champion-elect Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester and Aston Villa.

Just as significant for West Ham manager David Moyes, his injury list is clearing up.

Antonio, the team’s star striker and joint-top scorer, and creative defender Aaron Cresswell made their returns against Burnley, and Declan Rice - the England holding midfielder - is back in training after a knee injury that has kept him out since the end of March.

Playing his first game in a month after a hamstring problem, Antonio scored in the 21st and 29th minutes as West Ham hit back following Chris Wood’s 19th-minute penalty for Burnley.

West Ham’s 17th league win of the season - a club record in the Premier League era - moved Moyes’ team to within three points of the top four as it recovered from back-to-back losses against Newcastle and Chelsea.

West Ham’s players made the trip north having lost four of their last eight in the league - as many as they had lost in the previous 23 - and at risk of seeing a promising season unravel.

And they fell behind when Burnley was awarded only its third penalty of the season.

Ashley Westwood’s floated pass forward to Wood flummoxed Issa Diop, who allowed the New Zealand striker to recover the ball on the byline and try to turn back toward goal. He was upended by Tomas Soucek as he did so.

And it was Wood, fresh from his hat trick in the 4-0 win at Wolverhampton last week, who stepped up to fire home his 11th goal of the season, though the advantage would prove short-lived.

After Dwight McNeil lost possession to Pablo Fornals close to his own area, Jesse Lingard laid the ball off for Vladimir Coufal to cross, and Antonio got between Matt Lowton and James Tarkowski to head home from close range.

The turnaround was complete before the half-hour mark. Antonio was the only West Ham player in a penalty area crowded by Burnley defenders, but was somehow allowed to ghost through and flick Said Benrahma’s teasing cross beyond Nick Pope.

West Ham looked in the mood and almost got a third on the break, with Benrahma cutting in from the left and looking to bend a shot across the face of goal, only to see it bounce the wrong side of a post.

But, as the Hammers poured forward, they were nearly undone as Diop failed to deal with another high ball, allowing Matej Vydra to get on the end of Lowton’s pass.

The ball would not sit down for the Czech striker and, as he tried to lift it over Lukasz Fabianski, Craig Dawson got back to head off the line.

Antonio could have been celebrating a hat trick 10 minutes into the second half when Fornals’ mis-hit shot came his way, but he kicked the ball against his own standing leg as he tried to turn it in. Manager Sean Dyche sent on Jay Rodriguez just after the hour and it almost paid immediate dividends.

First, Fabianski made a superb save to keep out Josh Brownhill’s shot after Diop half-cleared McNeil’s cross then Rodriguez, who has been on 99 career goals since mid-February, blasted narrowly wide on the follow-up.

NEEDING A MIRACLE: Sam Allardyce needs what he says is a ‘miracle’ to maintain his record of never having been relegated from the Premier League.

A West Brom team he took over in mid-December is 10 points from safety with just four games remaining after drawing with Wolverhampton 1-1.

West Brom’s fate is likely to be sealed next weekend, perhaps before the side’s next game - at Arsenal on Sunday.

There are five teams above the relegation zone who are 10 to 12 points clear of West Brom, which is in next-to-last place. Just two of that quintet need to win to consign West Brom to an immediate return to the second-tier Championship.

Wolves was fortunate to go in front at The Hawthorns in first-half stoppage time when West Brom defender Kyle Barkley’s attempted clearance struck the standing foot of 21-year-old striker Fabio Silva and looped into the net.

Mbaye Diagne equalised in the 62nd minute.


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