Angelo Ogbonna and Michail Antonio both spoke with pride about the character West Ham United showed in coming from behind to secure three vital Premier League points at West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday.
Having seen Declan Rice’s penalty hit the post after two minutes and Matheus Pereira put the Baggies ahead direct from a corner midway through the first half, the Irons showed tremendous resilience and application to turn those circumstances around into a 3-1 victory.
Roared on by a vociferous home crowd making their return to The Hawthorns, the Baggies made West Ham work for the win, but an equaliser from Tomáš Souček on the stroke of half-time – added to by late goals from Ogbonna and Antonio – turned the scoreline on its head.
The Irons now require just a point from their final Premier League game, at home to Southampton on Sunday, to secure sixth place and, with it, UEFA Europa League football for next season.
“I think we showed West Ham character,” Ogbonna reflected at full-time. “All this season, I’ve been saying everyone has been getting involved. It made a difference.
“I think it was a fantastic game. Football without fans is nothing, and today was an example of that. We knew that this game could be really dangerous for us, but we stuck with it and we got three points.”
We can’t wait to see our fans. As I say, football without fans is nothing
“It was massive to be fair,” said Antonio in agreement. “They came out and played some free-flowing football, big guys, hitting the channels.
“It was definitely a hard game but we came in, we dug deep, we went one down but we managed to get the game back and win.
“When you miss opportunities, it gives them a lift. They had their fans in today to help them give them that little boost and got a good goal from a corner, but with us, we’ve shown this year that we’ve got the ability to go down, come back and get points.
“In these games you always want to try and get back into it just before half-time, and we managed to get that goal so we could come out [in the second half] with a clean slate – it was 0-0 basically.
“All we could do was come out, push hard and make sure we would score more goals.”
Both Irons are excited by the prospect of Sunday’s season finale at London Stadium.
A ten-thousand strong Claret and Blue Army will do their utmost to roar West Ham United on to secure European football through their league position for just the third time in the Club’s history.
Ogbonna added: “We can’t wait to see our fans. As I say, football without fans is nothing.
“I wasn’t concentrating on other results tonight because we had to play our game, and at the end of it, you saw what we could achieve.
“We started a little bit slow – maybe because we were a little bit tired, and they were playing at home and it’s never been easy to play here. I think they competed really well, but at the end, we showed our character.
“I think we were not concentrating on our position, but our performance, and today our performance was totally positive at the end, so I think we are looking forward to the next game.
“Hopefully we’ll get the three points, and we’ll see what we can achieve.”
Antonio admitted he had seen the Hammers’ European rivals’ results earlier on Wednesday evening, saying: “Before, we saw that Tottenham lost [2-1 to Aston Villa] and Everton won [1-0 against Wolves], so it was definitely a game we believed we needed to win not just for the Europa League, just to finish the season on a high.
“European football is what we went for at the beginning of the season. From Project Restart, our run and our performances have been unbelievable. We brought that into this season and we’ve brought it to the end. The Europa League would finish off a great season.
“Now, we’ve got Southampton at the weekend, and we need to put a good season to bed with another three points.”