Andriy Yarmolenko’s goal against Villa was ‘very special’, Lukasz Fabianski says

The Ukrainian forward was in tears after firing West Ham into the lead in the 70th minute of their 2-1 win

<p>West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko is embraced by goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (John Walton/PA)</p>

West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko is embraced by goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (John Walton/PA)

West Ham United goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski predicted something “magical” would happen when Andriy Yarmolenko returned to the team.

Ukrainian forward Yarmolenko was back in the Hammers squad against Aston Villa on Sunday 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 was in tears after firing West Ham into the lead in the 70th minute of their 2-1 win.

Former Poland international Fabianski has been offering assistance to members of his team-mate’s family as they were trying to leave Ukraine.

He said: “I don’t think any of us can imagine what he or his country have been through.

“We can all try to support him but it is unimaginable what he has been going through in the last few weeks. He has been very emotional.

“It was, in some ways, that once he was back you knew that something magical was going to happen, and that was very special what happened.

“He has been training but I don’t think any of us can understand fully what he is going through, what his family is going through, so I think for me it is hard.

“All of us try to be as supportive as we could be, but on the other hand I don’t think it is enough really.

“You could clearly see at the training ground that in a way he was a bit different, which is completely understandable. Sometimes you can try to behave to pretend that you’re fine but deep down you know it’s not fine.

“He is managing that really well but the situation is horrible. What he showed on Sunday was amazing, beautiful.”

Yarmolenko was sent on after an injury to Michail Antonio, and his goal was a wonderful turn and shot in one movement.

“The whole impact, he played in a position that he doesn’t really play. The way we use Michail, he is a completely different player,” added Fabianski.

“The touch and finish was amazing and his involvement in the play was really good – his runs. You could see that the effort and the heart was there and the amazing quality he possesses.”

Antonio will be a doubt for Thursday’s Europa League last-16 second leg against Sevilla while left-back Aaron Cresswell also hobbled off, although he is expected to be available.

“The last few weeks we have been hit with injuries and we really need players to be fit, we don’t have the biggest squad,” said Fabianski.

“What we do have is quality and that is very important. We’ll see what happens with Michail and Cress but others are ready to step up.”

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

Defeat ended Villa’s run of three straight wins and boss Steven Gerrard said: “I’m disappointed with the result.

“I wanted to try and keep the momentum going in terms of the three fantastic results we had before.”

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