West Ham striker Michail Antonio scored the decisive goal during the 2-1 win versus AZ Alkmaar in the first leg of the Conference League semi-final.
The No9 poked the ball home late in the game after Said Benrahma equalled at the London Stadium, meaning that the Hammers take a slender lead to the Netherlands next week.
David Moyes’ side did not play well in the huge tie but managed to get the job done, Antonio has revealed the tactical error which led to the passive performance.
West Ham star Michail Antonio has opened up on the tactical mistake the Hammers made in the massive win over AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League.
Antonio spoke to BT Sport after the game, saying: “We made it difficult for ourselves, we had chances, we just needed to be more clinical, but in the end we got the result.
“We know they’re a possession-based team, they know how to work it. We were like ‘alright, we’ll let you have it, and on the counter, we’ll damage you‘.”
There lies the problem. It took West Ham until late in the second-half to start playing their best football and take the game to their opponents. The performance was a little passive and the Eredivise side were allowed too much time on the ball.
Moyes clearly wanted to play on the counter, but AZ simply did not commit bodies forward, especially after their opening goal, as expected. West Ham’s attempt to lure the team that build-up patiently forward, then hit them on the break with pace, didn’t work as Pascal Jensen’s men sat back and time-wasted.
When West Ham started to go for it more, they reaped the rewards as AZ struggled to cope with our attacking talent and in the end Benrahma, Lucas Paqueta and Danny Ings will be disappointed to have missed chances to give the Irons a more healthy advantage ahead of the reverse fixture next week.
However, Moyes’ tactical setup could work in Holland. AZ will have to come out more to overturn the scoreline and even with Jesper Karlsson and Milos Kerkez, two of their best players expected to be back fit, that counter attacking plan could be best suited away from home when a draw will suit West Ham.
The pace of Antonio and Jarrod Bowen will be vital when fans see a more attacking AZ next week. Paqueta‘s ability to beat a press with a smart forward pass and start attacks will be huge. With all three looking leggy towards the end of the semi-final match, it is important they are rested for West Ham’s trip to Brentford in the Premier League with the team essentially safe after beating Man Utd 1-0.