Mikhail Antonio scored twice as West Ham put their domestic struggles behind them with a 2–0 win over AEK Larnaca in the Europa Conference League.
The Hammers may struggle in the Premier League, but they are making short work of Europe’s third-tier league after seven wins from seven games.
David Moyes’ side left wintry London for warmer climes after a dismal 4-0 defeat at Brighton prompted away supporters to turn against the under pressure manager.
But after a day of sunshine and beer, the traveling support on the Cypriot coast was in a much less rebellious mood.
Larnaca was supported by rowdy home crowds of 8,000 in a picturesque stadium decked out in green and yellow, like a rambunctious Carrow Road.
There was a clear pre-season friendly feel in the last-16 first leg encounter.
At one point a cat threatened to invade the pitch, but perhaps knowing that Kurt Zouma was back in the West Ham team changed his mind and ran.
Moyes made seven changes from the Brighton debacle, but despite the apparent gap in the class, West Ham were still under pressure in a nervous first half, with the minnows forcing three corners in quick succession.
Rafael Lopes narrowly headed one of them over before Gustavo Ledes fired too high from the edge of the box.
But West Ham eventually took control, with Manuel Lanzini’s shot going just wide before Said Benrahma’s attempt was saved by home goalkeeper Kenan Piric after a mazy run into the penalty area.
They got the breakthrough in the 36th minute, Benrahma spun and spun left again before crossing for Antonio to go home.
Antonio added an excellent second in stoppage time of the first half, controlling Declan Rice’s pass before looking up and curling the ball into the top corner from 20 yards out.
The striker could have scored a perfect hat-trick after the break when he was stopped by Benrahma, but his left-footed shot came back off the inside of the near post and rolled over the goal.
Lucas Paqueta should have added a late third after being sent home by fellow substitute Maxwel Cornet, but Piric made a fine save.
Nevertheless, next week’s second leg at the London Stadium should be a formality, while it’s first back to work for West Ham and a crucial encounter with Aston Villa on Sunday.