Andriy Yarmolenko breaks down in tears after goal 'for West Ham and Ukraine'
Yarmolenko scored his first goal since July 2020
West Ham United and Ukraine attacker Andriy Yarmolenko broke down in tears after opening the scoring for the Hammers against Aston Villa.
The 32-year-old was given compassionate leave following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, returning to the squad for the first time since February for the Premier League clash against Villa on Sunday.
Yarmolenko replaced Michail Antonio in the 51st minute with the game poised at 0-0 and received a heartwarming ovation from both sets of supporters inside the London Stadium.
Just 19 minutes after being substituted on, the former Borussia Dortmund man smashed home Said Benrahma's inviting pass to put David Moyes' side in front.
His teammates were quick to swarm the Ukrainian as he dropped to his knees with his head in his hands.
Emotional scenes at the London Stadium as Ukraine's Andriy Yarmolenko gives West Ham the lead 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/XStiNuzBds
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) March 13, 2022
When the stadium announcer announced the goal as being 'for West Ham and Ukraine', it received a warm round of applause - with Yarmolenko wiping his face after witnessing the support for him.
Yarmolenko's goal - his first since July 2020 - was followed up by Pablo Fornals' smart finish in the 82nd minute, with Jacob Ramsey grabbing a consolation goal for the away side in added-time.
Prior to the match, Moyes' said that he was expecting a warm reaction for the returning Yarmolenko.
"Undoubtedly and rightly so. You've seen the response from Premier League clubs who have Ukrainian players," he said.
"We're all huge supporters of the players and we're huge supporters of Ukraine. We want the war to end, we want Ukrainians to be happy and be free.
"We're the same for Yarmolenko, we’re always thinking about him and his family because all the Ukrainian (players) have got family members in the country, whether that be brothers, sisters, mums, dads, cousins or nieces, whatever it may be, I think they have all got members of their family in the country."
Great Yarmolenko interview with Dickie Davis, thanking West Ham fans and the British public for their support of Ukraine pic.twitter.com/8InZdnImrf
— Gary Taphouse (@garytaphouse) March 13, 2022
Last month, Ukrainian internationals Oleksandr Zinchenko and Vitaliy Mykolenko were both moved to tears ahead of Manchester City's visit to Everton.
City's Zinchenko was seen seeking out the Everton full-back as the two teams warmed up before Saturday's Premier League game at Goodison Park, the pair sharing an emotional embrace.