Michail Antonio was delighted to silence the famous Celtic crowd by scoring twice in West Ham United’s 6-2 pre-season win over the Scottish giants.
The Hammers’ new No9 was in unstoppable form in Glasgow, scoring the visitors’ first two goals, winning a penalty for Mark Noble to convert for the third and playing his part in the fourth, netted coolly by Said Benrahma.
Celtic’s young centre-backs Steven Welsh and Dane Murray simply could not live with Antonio’s pace, power and movement as he repeatedly ran in behind to both take and create chances for David Moyes’ side.
Had he not seen an early opportunity saved by goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas, the 31-year-old could have had a hat-trick, but he was happy with two goals and a team performance that was devastating at times, and hopes the Hammers can carry this form into the competitive 2021/22 campaign.
The goals were decent and hopefully I can carry it on into the season
“To be fair, Celtic are a quality team and they’ve shown today they play good football, but we’ve come out and played well and scored goals,” he told West Ham TV. “We had opportunities and they had opportunities, and these are the sort of matches that show what we’ll come up against in Europe.
“The goals were decent and hopefully I can carry it on into the season. Obviously scoring goals in pre-season is good to help you bring it into the season, but the most important thing is doing it in the Premier League, doing it in the Europa League and doing it when it actually matters.
“Pre-season is warm-up for the season so if you can do it in pre-season then you can do it in the season, so it’s always better to go out there and give it your all, get your fitness and make sure you perform, because obviously sometimes managers take performances in pre-season to decide if you’re going to start the first game of the season.”
With Antonio leading the line, West Ham repeatedly tore through Celtic with quick, incisive passing football, with Benrahma, fellow goalscorer Jarrod Bowen, Manuel Lanzini, Mark Noble and Pablo Fornals all catching the eye in Parkhead.
One attack ended when Antonio collected Benrahma’s cut-back and was bundled over by Ismaila Soro inside the penalty area. The No9 joked that he hoped for one moment that captain Noble would allow him to complete a 15-minute hat-trick, but instead the captain took and converted the penalty with typical ease.
“I definitely did want it but obviously when the skipper is on the field there is only one person taking it!” he laughed.
“But the boys are out there scoring goals – Jarrod has got quite a few goals in pre-season so hopefully he can carry that on into the season, Said had been struggling to get on the scoresheet last season so it’s good he’s got on the scoresheet this season already.
“One thing we definitely need this year is goals from a lot of different players.”
West Ham’s free-scoring display silenced am 18,500-strong home crowd who started the afternoon roaring their team on, particularly after Callum McGregor had curled them into an early lead.
Overall, though, the biggest crowd at a Scottish football match since March 2020 made for a superb atmosphere and one in which Antonio himself revelled.
“Especially at the start of the game, they were making a lot of noise,” he confirmed. “I was standing a yard away from Nobes and Nobes was trying to speak to me and I couldn’t hear him, and that’s only with 18,000, so imagine if this place was full!
“I’ve talked to a few people who played here and they said the atmosphere was the best they’ve ever played in so, although I’ve not experienced that, it was great to experience it anyway.”