Antonio - Concede free-kicks and be punished!

Michail Antonio says Dimitri Payet has the ability to keep on scoring from dead-ball situations if opposition teams give him the opportunities
Michail Antonio says Dimitri Payet will continue to ‘punish’ teams if they keep conceding free-kicks to West Ham United around their own penalty area.

The No30 watched in awe as Payet scored yet another stunning set piece against Crystal Palace on Saturday, sending a wickedly dipping effort over a seven-man wall and past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey via the underside of the crossbar.

Antonio, who also saw the Frenchman bag direct-free kicks at Bournemouth, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United, as well as a 37-yard effort for France last week, says Payet has a natural ability to score from any dead-ball situation.

“He doesn’t really practice them, to be honest!” Antonio smiled. “I’d say that he just saves them for games – that kind of thing! You can see in the games that he has got it in the bag all the time.

“He did it away with France against Russia and he did it again on Saturday, so it’s just one of those things that you can’t give us free-kicks because he will punish you!”

Antonio himself continues to punish opponents too, albeit from his new and unaccustomed position at right-back.

The 26-year-old was involved at both ends of the pitch in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Palace, sending over the cross that led to Manuel Lanzini’s equaliser, while also being embroiled in a game-long duel with lively Eagles wingers Bacary Sako and Yannick Bolasie.

“They have got players like Sako and Bolasie so it was a real challenge for me on Saturday, definitely,” he revealed. “They’re all decent, strong and have skill and it was a challenge for.

“I was pleased to be involved in another goal, with my cross to the back stick being headed down by Sakho for Manu to score.”
He did it away with France against Russia and he did it again on Saturday, so it’s just one of those things that you can’t give us free-kicks because he will punish you!
While Payet’s outstanding goal caught the eye, it was the controversial sending-off of Cheikhou Kouyate midway through the second half that was the major talking point.

West Ham were leading 2-1 at the time, but the ten men were unable to hold out, conceding an equaliser to Palace substitute Dwight Gayle and losing ground in the place for a top-four finish in the process.

However, with third-place Arsenal to visit east London on Saturday lunchtime, Antonio says West Ham still have a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League in their sights.

“There was definitely a sense of frustration because we went out there to get the three points and it was disappointing that we didn’t manage to get them,” he explained.

“It’s just part and parcel of football [going down to ten men] and we just didn’t manage to dig in and keep it at 2-1. We just need to concentrate on the next game and get the three points there.

“It was just one of those things that Cheik got sent-off, but we we’re just going to keep our heads up because we still got a point and we’re still moving forward and will get the three points from the next game.

“We could definitely have put the game to bed as we had quite a few opportunities in the first half which we didn’t take and we got punished.

“Going down to ten men was just one of those moments where we sat back and tried to hold onto our lead, which we didn’t manage to do. We’ve got Arsenal at home next week and we’ll look to push on.

“Drawing on Saturday definitely does not end our hopes of finishing in the top four. It’s just one of those things that we have to concentrate on ourselves, doing what we can do and making sure we get points where we can.”