LONDON: Michail Antonio’s two late goals fired the striker into the West Ham record books and the Hammers to the top of the Premier League.
Antonio’s quickfire double wrapped up a 4-1 victory over 10-man Leicester at a raucous London Stadium.
His first saw him overtake Paolo Di Canio as West Ham’s top Premier League goalscorer, and he celebrated in hilarious fashion by kissing a life-size cardboard cut-out of himself.
Moments later he was one short of a half-century of top-flight goals as West Ham maintained their flying start to the season.
The Hammers led through goals from Pablo Fornals and Said Benrahma, either side of a red card for Leicester’s Ayoze Perez.
Youri Tielemans hauled one back for the 10 men but Antonio stole the show with his late heroics.
Unlucky Leicester were missing Jannik Vestergaard, the defender they spent £15million on from Southampton 11 days ago to ease an injury crisis at the back, and who had promptly got injured.
Benrahma, Antonio and Jarrod Bowen immediately set about troubling the makeshift Foxes defence.
Some 60,000 fans were in the London Stadium for the first time since February 2020, the vast majority of whom had not seen David Moyes’ well-drilled, exciting side who finished an improbable sixth last season, in the flesh.
In the opening 15 minutes they saw a Benrahma curler saved, Declan Rice shoot over the crossbar and Antonio fire wide after another burst forward.
West Ham deservedly took the lead in the 26th minute when Jamie Vardy lost possession on the halfway line.
A swift counter-attack saw Rice feed Bowen, who flicked the ball first time to Fornals.
The Spanish midfielder laid the ball out wide to Benrahma and then darted into the area to tap in the Algerian’s cross.
An already tough evening got worse for Leicester five minutes before half-time when VAR checked a tackle by Perez on Fornals.
Leicester argued, with some justification, that Perez was off balance after he was fouled by Aaron Cresswell moments earlier.
But the replay did not look good, with his studs clearly catching Fornals high above the ankle and referee Michael Oliver agreed.
Antonio’s big moment should have arrived six minutes into the second half when he met a Fornals cross with a powerful header, but it was too close to Kasper Schmeichel, who made a fine reflex save.
Instead it was Benrahma who got the second thanks to a dreadful back-pass from Caglar Soyuncu, intercepted by Antonio.
The striker found his path to goal blocked by Schmeichel but pulled the ball back for former Brentford winger Benrahma to stroke into an unguarded net.
Leicester grabbed a lifeline with 21 minutes remaining after James Maddison’s low cross somehow squirmed its way to Tielemans, who bundled it in at the far post.
But Antonio settled any nerves with his milestone strike, turning Soyuncu and firing past Schmeichel before embarking on his latest madcap celebration.
This unloved stadium has struggled for atmosphere over the last five years, but the goal was met with possibly the loudest roar heard here since Sir Mo Farah rounded the final bend on Super Saturday in 2012.
Antonio rounded off a thumping win when he flicked the ball above two Leicester defenders and beat Schmeichel to the ball before stabbing home.