Mon | May 27, 2024

Antonio proud of West Ham performance against Leverkusen

Published:Saturday | April 20, 2024 | 12:09 AM
West Ham’s Michail Antonio.
West Ham’s Michail Antonio.

LONDON (CMC):

JAMAICAN INTERNATIONAL Michail Antonio said his English Premier League club side, West Ham United, had given their all in the UEFA Europa League and he was proud of what they had achieved.

The 34-year-old opened the scoring for the Hammers after 13 minutes with a header against Bayer Leverkusen in their quarterfinal match at London Stadium, and he had the entire Claret and Blue Army believing they could spring a surprise against the runaway German champions.

But Leverkusen improved in the second half and struck in the 89th minute through Jeremie Frimpong to earn a 3-1 aggregate win in the two-match, home-and-away series and extended the undefeated run of Die Werkself to 44 matches across all tournaments.

“I thought we gave it our all and the fans can see that,” Antonio said in a post-play interview with the West Ham website.

“They’re a quality team, and now unbeaten in 44 matches, but we put a lot of pressure on them.

“When you are looking to overturn a two-goal deficit you need to go after them and make sure you get an early goal as we did, and after that we created a couple of great opportunities, but we didn’t manage to take them, and their goalkeeper managed to make some good saves.”

The odds were heavily stacked against West Ham before kick-off, and they flew out of the blocks like a side who knew the exact scale of their task to beat a side who have not lost a match since May 2023.

OVATION FROM THEIR

After the match, the players were given a warm ovation from their fans – a mark of appreciation for a memorable three-year chapter of European adventures. Those adventures brought the club their first trophy in 43 years last season when they won the Europa Conference League.

“It just wasn’t meant to be,” the Reggae Boyz striker added.

“We are proud of ourselves, proud of the team and to get to three consecutive quarterfinals is a great achievement.

“Now that we are out of it [Europe], we will make sure we give everything to be in it next year.”

Antonio was involved in several battles with the entire Leverkusen back-line, while having another with Spanish referee José Maria Sánchez.

He was one of 10 players shown a yellow card and was left frustrated with the stop-start nature of the match, and he made a bitter swipe at the officiating and the lack of decisions for his side from Sanchez.

“I’m very disappointed because everything we gave and everything we did, we weren’t helped by a single decision all game and I feel some of the decisions might have changed the game,” Antonio said.

“When you play the game, you want decisions to go both ways – but they didn’t.

“I felt like I didn’t get a decision all game. I felt a bit frustrated. We felt like we deserved more. Sometimes the decisions don’t go your way. We move on, build on that, and try to get into the Europa League next year.”

He said: “It doesn’t feel like you’re playing against 11 men, it feels like you’re playing against 13 or 14, including the two linos (linesmen). You have to keep pushing and try to make the decisions go your way, but they just weren’t. We had to keep playing our way and keep being professional.

“We’re very proud of ourselves – three back-to-back years in European quarterfinals is unbelievable, I would never have thought that. We were a yo-yo team – into Europe, then fighting (to avoid) relegation.”

West Ham have an outside chance of qualifying for a fourth consecutive European season, but they will need to improve significantly on their recent Premier League form. They are currently eighth in the League on 48 points, but they have only won once in their last five matches.