Michail Antonio: Goalscoring, record-setting and Dirty Dancing!
Michail Antonio – like so many West Ham United supporters inside London Stadium – might well remember Monday evening for the rest of his life.
The No9 was not only able to celebrate a 4-1 victory over Leicester City which sent the Hammers to the top of the Premier League table for the first time in 15 years, or the return of a capacity 60,000-strong crowd to London Stadium – but also a truly historic evening to boot.
Antonio’s late second-half brace sealed the 31-year-old the title of West Ham United’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorer, now on 49 goals in Claret and Blue.
The forward celebrated his first – the record-breaking goal – by sprinting to the substitutes’ bench and hoisting aloft a cardboard cut-out of himself, drawing inspiration from actors Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the musical movie ‘Dirty Dancing’!
A visibly elated Antonio, recalling his record-breaking moment, told West Ham TV: “I think Saïd [Benrahma] got an assist for me tonight, and I got an assist for him – we just keep doing it!
“It’s a nice little cut-back [from Declan Rice], control [from me], open the goal up and put it in the far corner.
“It would have been beautiful if I’d have broken it outside the box – Kasper Schmeichel pulled off a great save from me [moments earlier].
“I don’t just want to beat the record by one or two – I want to beat it by loads so the next person trying to get up there isn’t going to beat me.
“The goal started off my little roll to go. I beat the record, and now I’m beating it by two – hopefully I can beat it by, maybe, 20!”
Explaining his celebration, he added: “Live on Sky Sports, I got distracted and said it was ‘Save the Last Dance’! Obviously with all the emotion of everything, I said the wrong movie!
“I wanted to be Baby [from Dirty Dancing] and I wanted to run to someone and for them to lift me up.
“94kg? I don’t really see it! Instead of getting someone to lift me up and make me Baby, I decided to lift myself up and treat myself as Baby, you know! I don’t know how it’s gone down yet – I will see later on!”
The forward, like so many of his teammates, was impressive in all aspects of his game as West Ham delivered an all-round team performance of sheer excellence.
Dominant from the offset, David Moyes’ team were admittedly helped by the dismissal of Ayoze Perez for Leicester late on in the first half, but had already led through Pablo Fornals – Antonio’s close friend – at that stage.
“It was a great finish by Pablo,” Antonio recalled. “He loves doing that, going into the penalty box and putting it into the far corner, so we could maybe go on a bike ride tomorrow to top it all off!
“I feel in the first half, trying to achieve the record kind of affected my game and I made a couple of mistakes where I maybe should have set some of the boys off.
“In the second half I performed how I perform and did not let it distract me. I came out, did a job, and obviously it’s worked out for me perfectly.”
The striker was also delighted to score once again in front of a capacity crowd for the first time since doing so in the 3-1 win over Southampton on 29 February 2020 – 541 days ago.
“It was amazing,” he beamed. “There’s no better feeling than scoring a goal in front of fans.
“The performance we had today as a team was beautiful. The thing that probably could have made it better was if we had the clean sheet.”
A three-goal win also sent West Ham to the top of the Premier League tree for the first time since 22 August 2006.
“I’ve been here for six years,” Antonio said.
“I’m in my seventh season and I’ve never been top of the table – so let’s all enjoy that together!”