Few goals in this stadium have been welcomed as loudly or elicited as much emotion as the one that broke the deadlock in this game.
It came from Andriy Yarmolenko, who made his debut appearance for West Ham after missing the previous four games due to his country’s blockade following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
‘A goal for West Ham and a goal for Ukraine,’ the stadium announcer screamed, fittingly marking the moment.
It’s impossible to know exactly what Yarmolenko has been through in recent weeks, but his joy and release of emotion may have given a hint.
Lukasz Fabianski, the lone player who did not join in at that point, made a beeline towards Yarmolenko at full time.
Yarmolenko wiped tears off his face as he made his way back to his half after scoring, receiving a couple more soothing pats along the way.
It speaks everything about Yarmolenko’s determination and mental fortitude, as well as those of his fellow Ukrainian players, who have managed to train and play as war rages in their homeland.
His goal was to demonstrate extraordinary serenity and presence of mind, as well as skill and technique.
Here is how this goal and everything else unfolded in the match!
Story of the match
West Ham United defeated Aston Villa 2-1 at home on Sunday, ending Steven Gerrard’s side’s run of three consecutive Premier League wins. Ukrainian winger Andriy Yarmolenko, which we talked about, and Spanish midfielder Pablo Fornals both scored a goal.
Yarmolenko was granted compassionate leave following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, but fell ill and missed West Ham’s 1-0 Europa League defeat at Sevilla on Thursday.
He knelt and lifted his arms to the sky after scoring the game’s first goal in the 70th minute, after picking up a precise pass from Said Benrahma and slamming it into the bottom right corner less than 20 minutes after replacing the injured Michail Antonio.
West Ham extended their lead 12 minutes later when Benrahma provided a superb pass to Fornals, who scored his sixth Premier League goal of the season.
In the 90th minute, Aston Villa midfielder Jacob Ramsey got the ball from Emiliano Buendia and blasted a superb strike inside the right post past goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
West Ham, who had a three-game losing skid in all competitions, surged into the top five with 48 points, one point ahead of Arsenal, who has four games in hand. Villa stayed in ninth place with 36 points.