West Ham man right-back in the mix after his display against Cardiff City
PUBLISHED: 16:30 05 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:19 06 December 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
Michail Antonio has played all over the field this season, but it was at right-back where he scored his first league goal of the seaspn
It was just a week ago that West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini told us that veteran Pablo Zabaleta could not play every game in December.
Almost with the same breath, the boss hinted that winger Michail Antonio could be the man to replace him to the consternation of many fans.
And on Tuesday night against Cardiff City, that prophecy came true and Antonio came through with flying colours.
Not only did he look the part, he made no defensive mistakes and even popped up with a goal, heading home Robert Snodgrass’ corner.
He scored in the 8-0 drubbing of Macclesfield Town earlier in the season, but this goal was a bit special from Antonio, who celebrated in style.
“I’m buzzing to score,” said after the 3-1 win. “It’s my first Premier League goal of the season and hopefully I can add to the tally now.
“It’s strange that I’ve been playing up front, right wing, left wing and now I’ve played at right back and I get the goal!”
It has been a tough year for Antonio with the 28-year-old even rumoured to be shipped out to Saturday’s opponents Crystal Palace at one point.
That didn’t happen, but he has still had issues with fitness and injuries which has seen him as mainly a substitute this season.
He got the nod this time, but it almost went horribly wrong for the Hammers when they conceded a first-half spot-kick.
“The penalty save was very crucial because Cardiff are a solid team who get nine people behind the ball and work together,” he said.
“If you score first they have to come out and you might get a few more, but if they score first, they’re hard to break down.”
Lucas Perez made the difference with two second-half goals before Antonio finished things off with a neat, stooping header.
“We’ve scored six goals in the last two games now,” he said. “We didn’t get any points from the first four games, so now we’re clawing back those points.
“We need to take points from the teams around us in the next few games and see how high we can go in the league.”
That means Crystal Palace on Saturday and even if Zabaleta is back from his rest to start at right-back, the versatile Antonio will be able to fit in anywhere.
The squad is building.