Premier League outfit West Ham United walked away with a comfortable 2-0 lead against underdogs AEK Larnaca in the first leg of the last 16 round of the Europa Conference League.
West Ham took a big step towards the quarterfinals with a 2-0 away win, despite their slow start and AEK creating chances in the second half in front of a packed stadium on Thursday.
The Cypriot hosts caused the visitors some early problems, but West Ham grew confident and took the lead in the 36th minute when unmarked Michail Antonio headed home.
Antonio then extended the Hammer’s lead two minutes into added time in the first half when he collected a pass on the edge of the area and superbly curled an effort around AEK keeper Kenan Piric’.
AEK missed several good opportunities in the second half to get on the scoresheet, but no Cypriot team has ever beaten an English side.
West Ham boss David Moyes appeared pleased with his team’s victory but not his squad’s overall performance.
“I’m really pleased with the result. I didn’t enjoy long parts of the performance.
“But the most important thing in a cup competition is to come away (with a win), and we did that,” said Moyes.
“Tonight, was always going to be difficult.
“We played a team who, up until Monday, were top of the Cypriot League, who is second at the moment.
“So, I didn’t for a second think it was going to be a complete walkover”.
AEK’s gaffer Jose Luis Oltra appeared pleased with his team’s performance, despite the loss.
“I can’t say I’m happy because of the result, but my team played very good football.
“The opposition has a lot of quality and punish mistakes, and in this case, they punished ours,” said Oltra.
“If we look at the statistics, we will see that we had possession, we had 14 corners and West Ham zero”.
The Londoners have now won all nine of their matches in the competition this term and now turn their attention to their domestic strife, where they are fighting to stay in the Premier League.
They play Aston Villa in a crunch game on Sunday at home.
AEK will be returning to domestic obligations, playing Apollon Limassol at home on Monday in a bid to return to the top of the table.
The Larnaca team can now focus on winning their first domestic championship.