Two goals by the returning Michail Antonio reinvigorated West Ham’s Champions League aspirations by guiding them to within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Antonio was forced off against Wolves four weeks ago with a hamstring strain and his absence coincided with consecutive defeats against Newcastle and Chelsea that left the Hammers playing catch-up.
The forward caused problems for Burnley throughout, marauding on both flanks and in front of goal, and he had already made his presence felt when he headed home Vladimir Coufal’s cross to cancel out Chris Wood’s penalty.
He then touched Said Benrahma’s low ball into the net, with the former Brentford player tormenting the hosts who were guilty of some poor defending.
David Moyes praised the 31-year-old who is now joint top-scorer on nine goals with Jesse Lingard and Tomas Soucek although he would not be drawn on his team’s top-four chances. “He was in super condition, he’s been working really hard and he deserved his two goals and on another day could have scored another two,” said the West Ham manager. “We are trying to keep up with the teams at the top. Whether we can make the top four, I’m not sure. But we are definitely in there fighting with four games to go.”
He added: “There was a lot of good things to take away from it. All in all, a real team performance.”
While West Ham have their eyes on Europe, Burnley have yet to guarantee their safety and a sixth successive season in the Premier League.
That would be some achievement but especially so this season after the Clarets took two points from the first seven games. They are nine points ahead of Fulham with four games to play with the Cottagers their next opponents.
Defeat there and the lead will be cut to six points although their manager, Sean Dyche, refused to place extra emphasis on the game at Craven Cottage next Monday.
He said: “The focus for me is always every game at a time. The focus is on the next game regardless of what people will say about it, that’s been the focus all the time since we’ve been here.
“You’ve got to play everyone home and away, you’ve got to believe you can win games no matter who you play and we certainly showed a good strong mentality towards that for the journey we’ve been on this season.”
Burnley took the lead when Wood controlled Ashley Westwood’s long ball and cut back inside only to be felled by Tomas Soucek with referee Anthony Taylor pointing to the spot.
Wood got up to take the penalty himself and slotted the ball low into the bottom corner despite Lukasz Fabianski guessing the right way for his 11th goal of the season and seventh in as many games.
The New Zealander clearly enjoys himself against West Ham – that was his seventh goal against the Londoners since his arrival at Turf Moor in August 2017.
The hosts went ahead through Wood’s spot-kick although the lead lasted just two minutes with the Clarets punished for some poor defending. They gave the ball away in their own half with Coufal’s cross from the right finding Antonio who got between two defenders and headed home.
Benrahma was then allowed time to curl in a cross from the left which Antonio touched into the net unchallenged despite the presence of four defenders.
West Ham were attacking at will and the same duo combined once more with Antonio inches away from getting a touch on Benrahma’s low ball which curled just wide of the far post.
Pablo Fornals fired in a shot which hit Antonio in front of goal but he could not react quickly enough and the ball was cleared.
Fabianski pushed away Josh Brownhill’s angled shot with Jay Rodriguez firing wide in the ensuing scramble after his initial shot was blocked as he sought the 100th league goal of his career.