Michail Antonio simply loves scoring against Tottenham Hotspur.
Sunday’s West Ham United match-winner was in the right place, at the right time – and, for him, against the right team – to prod in Aaron Cresswell’s corner from inside the six-yard box and, in doing so, put his team on course to beat their London rivals 1-0.
The strike was the No9’s sixth goal against Tottenham in eleven appearances – and was also his third goal in a 1-0 victory over the Lilywhites in Claret and Blue!
The 31-year-old’s instinctive finish was enough to settle another closely-fought contest in front of a packed-out, raucous London Stadium crowd on Sunday afternoon, pushing the Irons up to fourth in the Premier League table.
Despite his history in the fixture, Antonio admitted that, such was the way in which Cresswell’s out-swinging set-piece was initially set up, he was as surprised as anybody to find the back of the net!
“To be fair, I wasn’t really there to score today!” he laughed. “I was kind of there just to block Harry [Kane], but the ball’s come my way, and obviously being the poacher that I am, I stuck my foot out!
“I was kind of surprised, because I just got my foot there, just to get in front of him, and it’s gone into the bottom corner. I was just buzzing.
“This stadium or their stadium, I just like scoring against them, to be fair! It’s just one of those things where, as I go out there, I want to score goals.
“I’ve now got the No9 shirt and that’s the job I need to do.”
In addition to expanding his catalogue of famous West Ham goals, Antonio also added to his array of memorable goal celebrations with a Matrix-inspired effort!
He explained: “Well, last week, I put up a picture on Instagram of ‘Anto-Neo’! It went well, to be fair, so I thought I was going to have to do it today!
“When I was doing it, I was worried that someone was going to jump on me, but someone pulled me up before they did, so it was decent!”
A tight, tense fixture, the second half was sparked into life by a series of committed challenges in the lead-up to Antonio’s goal.
The striker admitted: “It was a bit of a stale game, to be fair. There wasn’t really much going on.
“We had a couple of opportunities and they had a couple of opportunities, but there was no real excitement in the game – it was quite slow.
“It wasn’t until that happened where it kind of sparked the fans, it started lifting it, everyone was going, and not long after that, the goal came.”
But the win was also one borne of passion, endeavour and tactical awareness, as Antonio acknowledged.
“We just had the drive, with our high intensity,” he noted.
“We were running around. Obviously we weren’t running out of our own pockets, because the one thing we know about Tottenham is that they like to play in between us, so we stayed tight and pressed in the areas where we needed to press.
“We started the season well and had a bit of a dry spell, but we’ve picked up again with the win at Everton [last weekend] and a win today.”
The fixtures keep on coming thick and fast for the Hammers as they fight on three fronts, but Antonio was also keen to acknowledge how well his team are competing after picking up their seventh win in the last nine games in all competitions.
“We’ve got a great squad here,” he said. “You can see how we’re using it.
“In the Carabao Cup and Europa League, we’re changing quite a few of the players, and we’re winning, so hopefully we can keep going, keep pushing – and keep winning.”