Andriy Yarmolenko broke down in tears after setting West Ham on their way to a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday. The Ukrainian, who had not played in more than a month, scored the opening goal 18 minutes after coming off the bench and described the strain he has been under since the Russian invasion of his country.
“It was so emotional for me,” he said. “It is so difficult for me right now in this moment thinking about football because every day the Russian army kills Ukrainian people.”
Yarmolenko has been a peripheral presence at West Ham since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2018. But his entry was greeted with a supportive roar, and when he tucked a neat finish past Villa’s goalkeeper, Emiliano Martínez, he was surrounded by his teammates as he sank to his knees and wept.
“To be honest I don’t know what to say,” he told Sky Sports. “I just want to say thank you to my teammates, 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.
“I felt the support from the fans and I tried to give everything on the pitch because I know how important the game was for us today. I’m not ready for 100% because in the last two weeks I have trained maybe three or four times. Since 26 February, I had to rest for four days because it was impossible to train – I was just thinking about my family and my people. I just tried to give everything on the pitch.”