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Emotional Andriy Yarmolenko thanks West Ham and public for Ukraine support

The Ukrainian forward was on the scoresheet in his return from compassionate leave.

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Andriy Yarmolenko applauded the West Ham fans (John Walton/PA)

Andriy Yarmolenko applauded the West Ham fans (John Walton/PA)

Andriy Yarmolenko applauded the West Ham fans (John Walton/PA)

Andriy Yarmolenko thanked West Ham and the British public for their support of Ukraine after scoring an emotional goal on his return to football in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa.

The Ukrainian forward was back in the Hammers squad for the first time since being granted compassionate leave due to the war in his homeland.

Yarmolenko received a standing ovation from both sets of fans as he came on as a 53rd-minute substitute.

And the 32-year-old, who has members of his family still in Ukraine, was in tears after firing West Ham into the lead in the 70th minute.

He knelt in celebration as every one of his team-mates hugged him in memorable, poignant scenes at the London Stadium.

Yarmolenko told Sky Sports: “It was so emotional for me because of the situation in my country.

“It is so difficult for me right now in this moment thinking about football because every day, the Russian army is killing Ukrainian people.

To West Ham fans, they also support me and Ukrainian people and also to all British people, because we feel you support us. Thank you, reallyAndriy Yarmolenko

“It was so emotional. To be honest, I don’t know what to say. I just want to say thank you to my team-mates, who support me all the time, every day.

“To West Ham fans, they also support me and Ukrainian people and also to all British people, because we feel you support us. Thank you, really.”

The goal itself was a memorable one even without the circumstances surrounding it. Yarmolenko took one touch to control Said Benrahma’s lay-off with his right foot, then spun and lashed the ball home with his left.

“It was a special moment when he scored and it’s really good he’s back involved,” said manager David Moyes.

“He was brought in and the whole dressing room applauded him and it was a big moment for him, it really was.

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Michail Antonio, left, went off injured (John Walton/PA)

Michail Antonio, left, went off injured (John Walton/PA)

Michail Antonio, left, went off injured (John Walton/PA)

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“Football has a huge appeal all around the world and I hope in some way if you big it up enough it will do something to help stop this, and maybe give the Ukrainians something to shout about that they are seeing we are talking about it in this country all the time. The goal was important, but the message more so.

“The other games he did not feel right, and when I spoke to him yesterday, he has not done a lot of training, just a few days. He’s lost a bit of weight which is understandable.

“He has family members in Ukraine and family here, and Lukasz Fabianski has been a really big help to him, regarding getting into Poland as well. So there has been a real team spirit effort a real team effort behind the scenes.”

Pablo Fornals added West Ham’s second before Jacob Ramsey hit Villa’s 89th-minute consolation.

There were injuries to West Ham’s Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell – a worry with the second leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against Sevilla in only four days – while Villa lost Lucas Digne to a hamstring problem.

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Steven Gerrard did not feel his team were ‘outclassed’ (John Walton/PA)

Steven Gerrard did not feel his team were ‘outclassed’ (John Walton/PA)

Steven Gerrard did not feel his team were ‘outclassed’ (John Walton/PA)

Boss Steven Gerrard also revealed Douglas Luiz will need reconstructive surgery after getting an accidental boot in the mouth from Manuel Lanzini.

“I thought the game was decided by moments rather than us being outplayed or outclassed,” added Gerrard.

“West Ham are a strong team with a lot of power but we’ve got to welcome that challenge.

“It’s given me something different to think about having seen West Ham today. We’ve played them twice and taken nothing.”

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