Antonio: It was a tough fight


Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Edmond Tapsoba and West Ham United's Michail Antonio during the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 Quarter-Final first leg match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and West Ham United FC at BayArena on April 11, 2024 in Leverkusen, Germany.

Michail Antonio acknowledged the quality possessed by Bayer Leverkusen after West Ham United’s hard-fought first leg battle with the Bundesliga leaders ended in 2-0 defeat, but he remains hopeful his team can turn the tie around.

The 34-year-old was drafted into the starting XI as one of two changes made by manager David Moyes, and demonstrated his value as a physical presence up front in a largely defensive team performance.

Carving out a good chance for Mohammed Kudus after a marauding run down the left flank early on, and then beating three defenders and creating an opportunity out of nothing, were two highlights of Antonio’s display in Germany, which ultimately ended in disappointment.

Michail Antonio

Goals from substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface in the final seven minutes powered Xabi Alonso’s hosts to victory, and the Hammers’ No9 explained it was easy to recongise the confidence flowing through Leverkusen’s line-up.

“We knew they were a good team before the game, and they showed that tonight,” Antonio said. “It was tough out there, and you can see they have so much belief in how they play.

“They constantly move the ball around, and they try to play through us and then suddenly they switch and go out wide.

“It was difficult to deal with, and the frustrating thing about the result is that we did deal with it for 83 minutes. We can’t get too down though - it is what it is, and we’ll have to come back fighting back at home next week.”

Having overturned a 1-0 loss in the first leg of a UEFA Europa League last 16 clash against Sevilla two seasons ago, and done the same in the previous round of this year’s competition against SC Freiburg, Antonio still believes West Ham can become the first side to defeat Leverkusen in 2023/24 and progress to the last four.

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With a home game against Fulham up next at London Stadium before the Irons welcome Die Werkself to the capital, the Jamaica international is keen to put on a show for the supporters during what promises to be an exciting week.

Antonio added: “We can take positives from this first leg – we managed to create a couple of decent opportunities on the counter attack, and we’ve got a chance to come back.

“We’re going to have to go for it, and hopefully we can do that for the fans. We’ve got two home games in a row now, and we’ll be looking to get the job done on all fronts.”

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