Michail Antonio ensures West Ham can blow bubbles off new stadium
Hammers take advantage of Harry Arter’s red card to seal win at new home ground
Michail Antonio heads home the winning goal for West Ham in their first Premier League game at London Stadium against Bournemouth. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
West Ham 1 Bournemouth 0
If any more proof was required that Michail Antonio is not a right back, it arrived at the perfect moment for West Ham United. Having endured a tortuous night while playing out of position in last Monday’s defeat to Chelsea, Antonio was back in his favourite position against Bournemouth and he showed Slaven Bilic why he should stay there with a timely reminder of his goalscoring instincts.
There were six minutes left when Antonio punctured the tension at the London Stadium by settling a dreary contest with Eddie Howe’s disappointing Bournemouth, who collapsed after losing Harry Arter to a late red card.
After an awkward start to the season, there was relief for Slaven Bilic thanks to Antonio’s late header.
“This is the new, modern West Ham,” Karren Brady announced in a video that flashed on the big screens in the moments before the start of the first Premier League fixture in this shiny, slightly disorienting bowl of a stadium but the boldness of that message from the vice-chairman was somewhat diluted by creeping reminders that the simple act of moving home is not enough to eradicate all of a club’s weaknesses on its own.
Indeed the news of Andy Carroll’s latest injury had felt a lot like the old West Ham, especially at the end of a trying week which featured the club’s new record signing, Andre Ayew, suffering a thigh injury that will keep the Ghanaian forward out until Christmas, putting yet another dent in Bilic’s plans.
August is not even over and the treatment room at West Ham’s training ground is already fit to burst, with Bilic forced to make do without seven senior players against Bournemouth.
Carroll’s absence with a knee injury that could see the striker miss the next six weeks meant the focal point of Bilic’s attack was the woefully out-of-form Enner Valencia, who never looked capable of ending a goal drought that goes back to January, while there must have been a few sighs of relief in the away dressing room after it emerged that Dimitri Payet had failed a late fitness test on a minor knock.
As much as West Ham toiled, however, Bilic could be satisfied with a solid defensive performance. Bournemouth’s lack of endeavour was baffling given how understrength their opponents were; baffling, too, given that they won a seven-goal thriller the last time they were in east London.
Their efforts were summed up by Jordan Ibe’s wastefulness when he was clean through on goal at the start of the second half. Having peeled behind the otherwise impressive Arthur Masuaku on the right, the winger chose to pass when he had a clear sight of goal, allowing James Collins to mop up.
Having struggled to test West Ham’s back four before the interval, there were brief signs of greater endeavour from the visitors, with Joshua King forcing Adrian to make an outstanding save with a fierce effort from 25 yards.
Yet it was a quiet performance Callum Wilson, who scored a hat-trick in this fixture last season, and the game opened up when Arter was sent off.
Already booked for handball, the Republic of Ireland midfielder received a second yellow card after fouling the marauding Cheikhou Kouyate with 13 minutes left.
That was the cue for West Ham to pile forward and Bilic threw on an extra forward, introducing Ashley Fletcher alongside Jonathan Calleri, another substitute, and the breakthrough arrived when Gokhan Tore’s teasing cross from the left was met by a header from Antonio at the far post.