West Ham’s players are no longer surprised when Dimitri Payet produces free-kick magic, Michail Antonio says.
The France international scored a stoppage-time free-kick on Wednesday as Slaven Bilic’s men edged to a 1-0 EFL Cup win at home to League Two side Accrington Stanley, ending a run of four straight defeats to book a last-16 tie against Chelsea.
Antonio has been one of West Ham’s few bright notes in a difficult start to the 2016-17 season, scoring five times in as many Premier League games, but he says the whole squad turn to Payet when they need a moment of inspiration.
“We had a few opportunities in the first half against Accrington and we had a few in the second half, which we still didn’t take,” Antonio said to The Mirror ahead of the Hammers’ home game against Southampton on Sunday.
“But that boy Dimi turned up with a free-kick again. He’s just special, isn’t he?
“It’s not just the fans who look to him as the go-to guy, we do as well. It’s one of those things, especially with free-kicks, where he is probably up there with one of the best in the world at taking them.
“So when you get in that situation, you’re thinking, ‘Ah, he’s got this’ – before he kicks it, you’re thinking, ‘It’s probably going to be a goal’.
“He’s top of the assists and he has managed to get his first goal of the season now, so hopefully, he can keep going on.”