West Ham ease past Rapid Vienna in the Europa League
West Ham United continued their super impressive Europa League campaign with a 2-0 win at West Ham Rapid Vienna Europa League to confirm their place at the top of Group H on Thursday after qualifying for the knockout stages.
David Moyes’ side is fourth in the Premier League but has arguably been even more impressive in Europe, with this their fourth victory in five matches, getting one of the best results in the competition.
Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Mark Noble shortly before half-time teed up a straightforward victory, albeit one that was played out without a crowd as a lockdown kept home fans away after West Ham’s travelling supporters had already been banned as a punishment to crowd trouble.
The Rapid faithful would not have been particularly impressed by what they saw if they had been present, as the margin of West Ham’s victory could have been wider on Thursday night.
Jarrod Bowen passed up a huge chance for an early opener when he toed Arthur Masuaku’s superb sixth-minute cross surprisingly wide, but West Ham had the lead they wasted six minutes from the end of the first half.
Yarmolenko nodded Nikola Vlasic’s teasing centre back across Paul Gartler for his first Hammers goal since January, before the scorer earned a clip from Maximilian Hofmann for a stoppage-time spot-kick, which Noble dispatched.
West Ham kept pushing and Bowen was wasteful again when he shot straight at Gartler at the end of a wonderful run.
Then when he blasted against the legs of retreating defender Filip Stojkovic after the goalkeeper had parried Tomas Soucek’s header following a smart initial save.
Rapid threatened only fleetingly at the other end, as West Ham’s comfortable position meant they could disregard events elsewhere in the group and hand a debut to Sonny Perkins.
who almost scored with his first touch on a productive night for the visitors.
West Ham impressive start!
West Ham’s impressive start to this campaign meant it would take a remarkable collapse not to advance to the knockout stage, but they took apart Rapid on matchday five just to make sure.
Although there were occasional lulls in the game, West Ham was always in control with 61.2 per cent of the possession, while their 12 shots had a collective value of 4.15 expected goals (xG).
Knee surgery restricted Masuaku to 12 Premier League appearances last season, and Aaron Cresswell established himself as a surefire starter under Moyes in that time.
But the fit-again left-back took his opportunity to impress with an all-action display in Austria.
Only Noble had more touches than Masuaku who enjoyed 92 touches at the time of his substitution, as he excelled at both ends, creating two chances while also making three interceptions, two tackles and two clearances.
If West Ham has great depth at full-back, the same is not quite a true upfront.
Michail Antonio was rested for this match, meaning Bowen played through the middle in the absence of an obvious natural alternative.
While it feels a little harsh to criticise Moyes’ attack in a comprehensive win, Bowen alone could have stretched the scoreline significantly. The winger failed with three shots worth a combined 1.81 xG.
West Ham returns their focus to the Premier League and a trip to Manchester City awaits them on Sunday.
Their next Europa League clash will be at home to Dinamo Zagreb on December 9, whilst Rapid go to Genk.
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