West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski has lauded team-mate Andriy Yarmolenko, saying ‘something magical was going to happen’ against Aston Villa.
David Moyes’ side ran out 2-1 winners at home to keep them in the mix for Champions League qualification. And it was Ukraine international Yarmolenko who opened the scoring in east London.
The forward had been given compassionate leave by West Ham following Russia’s invasion of his home country.
He made his return against Villa, coming off the bench to replace Michail Antonio in the 52nd minute.
And Yarmolenko soon made an impact as he beat Emi Martinez with a great strike after 70 minutes. The star was visibly emotional in his celebrations and received a standing ovation from the home crowd.
Pablo Fornals soon made it 2-0, before Jacob Ramsey halved the deficit to give Villa some hope of a late comeback. But West Ham held on to make it 14 league wins for the campaign so far.
Reacting to the victory and Yarmolenko’s performance, Fabianski told The Independent: “I don’t think any of us can imagine what he or his country have been through.
Andriy Yarmolenko praised for ‘magical’ moment
“We can all try to support him but it is unimaginable what he has been going through in the last few weeks. He has been very emotional.
“It was, in some ways, that once he was back you knew that something magical was going to happen, and that was very special what happened.
“He has been training but I don’t think any of us can understand fully what he is going through, what his family is going through, so I think for me it is hard.
“All of us try to be as supportive as we could be, but on the other hand I don’t think it is enough really.
“You could clearly see at the training ground that in a way he was a bit different, which is completely understandable. Sometimes you can try to behave to pretend that you’re fine but deep down you know it’s not fine.
“He is managing that really well but the situation is horrible. What he showed on Sunday was amazing, beautiful.”
Star impressed well in Antonio’s place
Yarmolenko tends to operate out wide, but given West Ham’s striker shortage, he was sent on to lead the attack.
“The whole impact, he played in a position that he doesn’t really play. The way we use Michail, he is a completely different player,” Fabianski added.
“The touch and finish was amazing and his involvement in the play was really good – his runs. You could see that the effort and the heart was there and the amazing quality he possesses.”
Fabianski also gave a brief update on the state of Moyes’ squad. “The last few weeks we have been hit with injuries and we really need players to be fit, we don’t have the biggest squad,” he said.
“What we do have is quality and that is very important. We’ll see what happens with Michail and [Aaron] Cresswell but others are ready to step up.”