Michael Antonio scored twice West Ham AEK defeated Larnaca 2-0 and left their internal conflicts behind. European Conference League.
The Hammers may be struggling in the Premier League, but after seven wins in seven games, they are running short on Europe’s third-tier competition.
David Moyes‘ side left winter London to take on warmer climates after a sad 4-0 loss at Brighton, which led away fans to turn on the manager under pressure.
But after a day of sun and beer, travel support was in a much less rebellious mood on the Cyprus coast.
Larnaca was bolstered by a noisy 8,000-seat home in a quirky stadium furnished in green and yellow, like a noisy Carrow Road.
There was a distinct pre-season friendliness in the last 16 first leg matches.
At one point a cat threatened to invade the field, but perhaps thinking that Kurt Zouma was back in the West Ham team, he changed his mind and ran away.
Moyes made seven changes from the Brighton debacle, but despite the obvious gap in class, West Ham still found themselves under pressure in a tense first half where the minnows pushed three corners in quick succession.
Rafael Lopes narrowly headbutted one of them before Gustavo Ledes shot very high from the edge of the box.
But West Ham eventually took control and Manuel Lanzini’s shot widened just before it was stopped by home goalkeeper Kenan Piric after Said Benrahma’s insane run into the box.
They made a breakthrough in the 36th minute, before Benrahma turned left again before heading back to Antonio’s house.
Antonio added a great second to the halftime stoppage and, after controlling Declan Rice’s pass, looked up and tucked the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.
The forward could have had an excellent hat-trick when teed by Benrahma after the timeout, but his left-footed shot bounced back from inside the close post and rolled the goal auta.
Lucas Paqueta should have added a late third after being ejected by his substitute Maxwel Cornet, but Piric made a good save.
However, the second game at the London Stadium next week should be a formality, with first returning to his day job for West Ham and a critical meeting with Aston Villa on Sunday.