Fans in Larnaca

Four things we loved as West Ham won in Cyprus

1. Antonio at the double

Michail Antonio’s two superb goals at AEK Larnaca have, if all goes to plan, set West Ham United on course for the UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL) quarter-finals.

The No9 settled the Hammers’ nerves by expertly heading in Saïd Benrahma’s left-wing cross, then put his team in control by curling into the top right-hand corner from 25 yards on the stroke of half-time.

Antonio was unfortunate not to become just the second West Ham player to net a European hat-trick – and a perfect one to boot – when his left-foot shot cannoned back off the inside of the post moments after the interval.

As it is, Antonio's two goals took him onto 70 for West Ham and level with Trevor Morley in joint-16th place in the Club's all-time scoring charts. He was level with Carlton Cole on 68 prior to Thursday’s tie.

Next in his sights is Paul Goddard on 71, then he will need a hot streak to catch Scottish penalty king Ray Stewart on 84.


2. Maxi makes his return

Maxwel Cornet

Many West Ham United supporters were excited when the Club completed the signing of Ivory Coast international winger Maxwel Cornet last summer.

The former Lyon and Burnley player made an eye-catching start, too, grabbing five assists in West Ham’s opening four European matches, then scoring what looked to be a dramatic late equaliser at Chelsea in the Premier League, only for an erroneous VAR review to rule it out.

Cornet was then hurt in the home win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on 1 October and was found to have suffered a complicated calf injury.

After five months of rehabilitation, the 26-year-old made a welcome as a second-half substitute at AEK Arena and immediately gave glimpses of what the Irons have been missing, most notably when his spin and pass released Paquetá for what could have been a tie-clinching third goal.


3. Nine out of nine

Michail Antonio shoots

West Ham United’s 2-0 UECL round of 16 first leg win in Cyprus made it a perfect nine wins from nine ties in the competition this season.

The Irons added to their pair of Group B victories over FCSB, Silkeborg and Anderlecht with another success at AEK Larnaca. West Ham have scored 21 goals in those nine wins, conceded just five and kept five clean sheets.

Having already become the first team in UECL history to win all six group-stage ties, can David Moyes’ men make it a perfect 15 out of 15 and go all the way to lift the trophy in Prague on 7 May?


4. Colourful support

AEK Larnaca fans

Despite facing the challenges of a 2,000 mile journey and the cold snap that has hit England this week, around 1,500 West Ham United supporters successfully made the journey to Cyprus.

The away section was virtually full at AEK Arena, where both sets of fans made for a lively and colourful atmosphere.

The home supporters welcomed the teams onto the pitch with a pyro show, then sang throughout as their team tackled in English opposition for the first time.

At the other end, the Claret and Blue Army adorned their stand with flags from all over England and beyond and belted out ‘Bubbles’ with passion.

At full-time, both applauded their team’s efforts on a night both sets of supporters will remember fondly.


UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16 tickets