Michail Antonio caught even David Moyes by surprise with his impact as he fired West Ham to a come-from-behind 2-1 Premier League victory at Burnley which reignited their push for Europe.
Antonio was playing his first game in a month after a hamstring problem but showed no signs of rust as he scored twice in 10 first-half minutes after Chris Wood’s penalty for the hosts, with Moyes’ only complaint that he did not add more as he passed up several chances for a hat-trick.
“I’ve got to say I was a little bit surprised,” Hammers boss Moyes said. “He’s come back in better condition than we thought. We never felt it was such a bad injury but he looked in super condition, he’s been working really hard.
“He deserved his two goals tonight and on another day he should have had another two, so it’s a bit of both. But to make the chances is really pleasing.”
The win moved the Hammers to within three points of the top four as they recovered from back-to-back defeats against Newcastle and Chelsea, with a run of four defeats in eight before this threatening to see a promising season unravel.
“All you ever get is three points so that’s all we can take in that sense, but there are a lot of good things we can take away with our overall performance and our appetite to score goals,” Moyes said.
“Our keeper’s made a great save when he was called on as well so all in all it was a really good team performance.
“We’re trying to stay around at the moment and keep up with the teams at the top. Whether we can make the top four I’m not really sure but we’ll really try to get ourselves in a position where we can make Europe – and we’re in there fighting with four games to go.”
West Ham fell behind to Wood’s 19th-minute penalty – the New Zealander’s seventh goal in seven – but needed only two minutes for Antonio to level before he put them ahead with 29 minutes gone.
Moyes’ side had several chances to add to their lead but by not taking them offered Burnley hope, with Josh Brownhill bringing an excellent save from Lukasz Fabianski before Jay Rodriguez flashed a shot wide.
But Burnley could not avoid matching an unwanted club record as they made it eight top-flight home games without a win.
“It was a strange one,” manager Sean Dyche said. “I don’t think we were a million miles off our marks.
“West Ham delivered a strong performance and they’re chasing the Champions League spots for a reason. They’re a good outfit and they’ve shown that so I wasn’t overly critical of my players.
“We tried to make a game of it, both teams played at a real tempo but they affected the game with a bit more quality on transition in particular. They’ve grown into a good unit and made good use of their purchases.”
After Fulham and West Brom both failed to win this weekend, Burnley look comfortable as they sit nine points above the drop zone with four left to play ahead of next Monday’s trip to Craven Cottage.
“It looks no more tasty than it did at the beginning of the season,” Dyche said of the fixture. “Our mentality is the same whoever we play.”