LONDON (AP) — Lucas Perez turned the back of his jersey to West Ham’s jubilant fans and pointed to his name.
After a rather anonymous start to his career at the London club, West Ham fans are much more aware of the Spanish forward after his game-changing display against Cardiff in the Premier League on Tuesday.
Perez scored two second-half goals after coming on as a substitute for the injured Marko Arnautovic, setting West Ham on its way to a 3-1 win at the Olympic Stadium. Michail Antonio also scored for the Hammers, whose goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski saved a penalty in the first half.
Perez, who previously had an underwhelming spell at Arsenal, joined West Ham from Deportivo La Coruna in the offseason for his second stint in English soccer. Before Tuesday, he had made just five appearances in the league, all as a substitute.
He was summoned to come on earlier than expected against Cardiff, with Arnautovic hobbling off with a left hamstring injury in the 38th minute.
Lucas opened the scoring in the 49th minute by running onto Robert Snodgrass’ lofted pass and driving a fierce shot past Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. His second goal, which came five minutes later, was a finish through the legs of Etheridge after being played in by Arthur Masuaku.
That was when he showed the back of his jersey to the fans.
“I don’t think he must prove anything, we know why we brought him here,” West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “I brought him here because I knew what he was able to do. There are many reasons why players don’t play but it’s important for them to take their chance.”
Antonio wrapped up a second straight victory for West Ham — it won 3-0 at Newcastle on Saturday — by heading in an inswinging corner from Snodgrass.
Cardiff grabbed a consolation through Josh Murphy with virtually the last kick of the game in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Earlier, Fabianski guessed the right way to save a 35th-minute penalty from Joe Ralls, after Junior Hoilett was fouled by Arnautovic.
Pellegrini’s side moved seven points clear of the relegation zone, though the injury to star player Arnautovic is a blow heading into a busy period of matches over the festive period.
“We will see tomorrow,” Pellgrini said. “Tonight is difficult to know with a muscle injury to the hamstring.”
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