Andriy Yarmolenko scored an emotional goal on his return to football day as West Ham beat Aston Villa 2-1.
The Ukrainian striker has returned to the Hammers squad for the first time since taking a leave of absence due to the war in his homeland.
Yarmolenko received a standing ovation from both sections of the fans when he came on for Michail Antonio in the 53rd minute.
And the 32-year-old, who still has family in Ukraine, broke down in tears after giving West Ham the lead in the 70th minute.
It was a memorable and poignant moment in an unforgettable game at the London Stadium.
Pablo Fornals scored West Ham’s second and Jacob Ramsey took Villa’s consolation as the Hammers ended a three-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
But it comes at a heavy cost with injuries to Antonio and Aaron Cresswell, bad news with the Europa League last-16 second leg against Sevilla just four days away.
Left-back Cresswell was West Ham’s main attacking threat, creating an early opportunity for Said Benrahma, who skipped between the two challenges but shot too close to Emi Martinez.
Villa, who lost full-back Lucas Digne to a hamstring injury early on, nearly took the lead when Ramsey edged past Ben Johnson into the penalty area and passed Philippe Coutinho, who tried to hit his heel afterwards. was stopped by Lukasz Fabianski.
The best opportunity of the first half fell to West Ham when Cresswell delivered another cross that Tomas Soucek had caught with a narrow header wide of the post.
The first half ended on a painful note for Villa’s Douglas Luiz, who accidentally received a kick in the mouth from Manuel Lanzini.
West Ham’s tight schedule and painfully thin squad looked set to catch up with them as Antonio and Cresswell hobbled after the break.
Villa were only inches ahead when Danny Ings shot towards goal from a corner and Fabianski bounced the ball into the post.
Shortly after, from a West Ham corner, Kurt Zouma’s header was blocked by Martinez and Craig Dawson headed home.
But then there was Yarmolenko’s moment, and what that goal was. The widow man made one touch to control Benrahma’s shot with his right foot, then turned and sent the ball home with his left foot.
The London Stadium exploded as Yarmolenko’s teammates engulfed him, and he rose from the celebration in tears.
Fornals doubled West Ham’s advantage when he swept the house through a Benrahma pass, and although Ramsey made the game tense with an 89th-minute strike, the hosts held out.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/ukraine-forward-andriy-yarmolenko-sheds-tears-after-his-goal-sets-west-ham-up-for-victory-over-villans-41442306.html Ukraine striker Andriy Yarmolenko in tears after his goal gave West Ham victory over Villans