Antonio puts cherry on top of party
West Ham 1-0 Bournemouth
Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30
Whatever happens now in the career of Michail Antonio, who has journeyed from non-league to Premier League in one of those uplifting sporting stories, his name will be writ large in the history of West Ham United.
The right-back-cum-left-winger scored the first goal in the Premier League for West Ham at their new home, the London Stadium, where they have moved after 112 evocative years at Upton Park.
Antonio, who was hauled off after being a defensive liability in the defeat at Chelsea last Monday, who took part in an undistinguished away performance in the Europa League last Thursday, who probably would not have featured here had West Ham not been crippled by injuries. Only sport has the capacity for such twists.
With a first-choice front three missing - Andy Carroll out for at least four weeks is the latest set-back - West Ham manager Slaven Bilic put his faith in Antonio and reaped the dividend with a smart, late header guided back across goalkeeper Artur Boruc into the net when this landmark fixture was drifting towards an unremarkable draw. Instead of non-descript deflation there was lift-off.
The goal came late - very late. But, as with any good house-warming party, it meant the occasion ended with a memorable finale.
West Ham's other hero was goalkeeper Adrian, who twice denied Joshua King with superb saves.
The result was tough on Bournemouth, who had a history man of their own, albeit one who will be a footnote of what matters at this stadium, but it made all the difference.
Ireland international midfielder Harry Arter became the first player to be sent off here - receiving a second caution in the 78th minute, for a foul on Cheikhou Kouyate, having been booked in the first half for dissent as he disputed a handball correctly given against him.
Afterwards the face of Cherries manager Eddie Howe said it all. The card cost him, cost his team and it was all avoidable. The directive that referees will crack down on backchat has been widely circulated among clubs but here was a hot-headed dissident.
It consigned Bournemouth to back-to-back defeats in their first two Premier League matches (and almost a year to the day after they came to Upton Park and won 4-3 with a Callum Wilson hat-trick) and changed the dynamic for West Ham who are now up and running.