Europa League
West Ham United 3 KRC Genk 0

Thursday, 21st October 2021
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham stayed top of their Europa League this evening with a comfortable 3-0 home victory over Belgians Genk at the London Stadium.

Their opponents tested them maybe more than any had so far in this European campaign, but they were eventually worn down and taken apart by an efficient performance. It is now three wins from three for The Hammers in Group H, six points clear with two away games in the remaining three.


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With a rotated side once more, the six changes to the team did hamper some of the fluency going forward. The away side had their moments, mainly down their right hand side where the pace of Junya Ito caused Cresswell problems all game long. To the left back's credit, he had the better of his winger going the other way.

Bowen led the line, with Yarmolenko continuing to drift in from the right and Vlasic working hard down the left. Lanzini came in for Benrahma, which made an adjustment in how the side played. The Argentine is less explosive but more disciplined and kept the ball moving neatly. On the flip side, a team without its usual fluency could have used a more ambitious player in the middle as attacks failed to find a final pass.

The Hammers started slow, and whilst the performance was eventually efficient, it never really clicked into gear. Genk made their tactics relatively clear, using the pace of Ito to get in between defenders and round the back. They looked to have scored early on from this route, but the winger had moved too early.

Not long after he was in again, this time on goal, only to be thwarted by Areola's rush from goal and clumsy but effective challenge outside the box. Had it come to anything, replays showed the winger had again strayed offside.

They were warning signs for the Hammers. The home side had threatened without producing. At the very least, Genk made it harder for the group leaders than any of the other sides have so far.

With little else working, set pieces were where West Ham started to thrive. Dawson was always a threat as crosses came in, throwing himself aggressively at the ball. Soucek too was dangerous, heading low at goal to force a good save after a corner to the back post. It had taken a little while for Cresswell to stop hitting corners near Genk 6 foot 7 inch striker Paul Onuachu.

The best West Ham chance from open play came from wonderful football by Lanzini, a subtle and clever pass through the defence got Johnson in around the back down the right of the area. His pass into the middle was good, but as Bowen looked to score from close range, the ball hit his standing boot and diverted it away from the shot he was trying to take. Cresswell guided the ball wide with his right as it bounced to the edge of the area.

At the other end, the defence was exposed on multiple occasions.

A moment of confusion allowed Genk an opening as Dawson and Areola failed to deal with a ball they should have been in control of, whilst Yarmolenko did well to get back and cut out a low cross that was fired into a dangerous area.


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Then came the Belgians' most dangerous moment came from a rather worrying choice by Areola, flying far off his line to flap at a ball aimed at Onuachu. Everyone else might have remembered his towering frame, but the goalkeeper appeared not to. He flailed at it, missed and Onuachu's weak header would have gone in had it been on target of the unguarded goal.

Rice patrolled deeper in midfield and again halted multiple counter attacks. His direct passing made a difference, and one occasion a firm ball through the midfield opened up the visitors. Yarmolenko and Vlasic combined well to give Cresswell pace to deliver, and his driven ball across the face of goal deflected off a defender, only to roll safely into the goalkeeper's hands.

As it looked a disappointing half would come to end all square, Craig Dawson was finally rewarded for his brave efforts attacking corners.

In stoppage time, Cresswell curled a good ball into the box and found the centre back once more. This time Dawson connected more with shoulder than head, but the irregular ricochet caught the Genk goalkeeper flat-footed and looped over the man on the post and into the corner to give West Ham the lead.

In a less than pretty, it was a scrappy goal that separated the two sides.

The visitors came out with intent at the start of the second 45, looking to force their way back into the game. All three teams below the Hammers sit on three points, so taking anything away from a trip to London could have proven vital to their qualification hopes.

Whilst eager, Genk struggled to really threaten, and it was there for West Ham to take if they could up their intensity.

Vlasic had toiled on the wing, and whilst he never looked like creating much, his hard work and perseverance will not have gone unnoticed. It was a freekick that his effort won that gave West Ham the opening for their second goal.

Deep on the left hand side, a simple Cresswell ball into the box was won with absolute ease by Issa Diop. Against a zonal defence, the defender ran unimpeded between two opponents to meet a perfectly weighted ball and his header rocketed off the underside of the crossbar before bouncing over the line and in.


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The quality where it matters has been the story of this group, and West Ham have it. On the evidence of these three games, none of the other sides so. As if to underline the point, it was only 18 seconds after the restart that West Ham got their third and really wrapped things up.

Genk played the ball calmly to their left and may have been shocked by how intently Lanzini, Bowen and Yarmolenko pressured the players in possession and hunted for the ball.

The energy, laudable in itself even without the clear superiority, was swiftly rewarded as Yarmolenko won possession, Lanzini played a first time pass of the loose ball to Bowen and the forward set off to goal. He had started maybe 35 yards out, but his direct running had the defence scrambling. He burst into the box, shifted the ball into a position to shoot and took his chance.

The shot itself was neither powerful nor unerringly accurate, but the goalkeeper contrived to flick it into his own goal anyway and Bowen, unlucky not to score on Sunday, found the bit of fortune Betty good striker gets on occasion and settled the tie.

From there, the game was played almost at testimonial speed. Genk lost all shape, and it looked for a brief spell like the scoreline could rocket, but instead the Hammers slowed the tempo and eased themselves through the rest of the game.

There will be some frustration that players like Bowen and Soucek played too many minutes, the striker only replaced in the 83rd minute and the midfielder on for the whole match. Equally, it was a joy to see not only Noble on the field for a 25-minute cameo, but a debut for 19-year-old academy midfield Daniel Chesters. His every touch was cheered and the crowd were more invested in players passing the ball to him than the actual game itself as it drew to a conclusion.

There was a big chance for Genk's Ike Ugbo that the young Londoner maybe could have done more with it, whilst Diop made a goal-saving block as time ticked away, but the night belonged to the Hammers.

In another efficient performance, it was the third Europa League win on the spin and leaves Moyes and his side six points clear at the top of the group, a perfect nine points without conceding a goal.

Moreover, each win has been quite frankly easy, the only issue now the record that shows two Premier League defeats following the matches so far. A third would see us lose the London derby against Tottenham on Sunday. But that's a problem for the weekend.


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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
Calls for Areola?EUR(TM)s imminent first team inclusion may be quietened by this. Even his intervention rushing out of his box was clumsy, whilst the incident with Dawson showed poor communication and the flailing attempt to beat man-mountain Onuachu to a high ball was very poor.


Ben Johnson
Looks to be growing into the shirt and improved in the final third in this game. Still more solid than spectacular, but certainly comfortable.


Aaron Cresswell
It may well be that Genk?EUR(TM)s best player came up against Cresswell, and that his most obvious attribute is our left back?EUR(TM)s weakness. But Ito?EUR(TM)s pace was too much for Cresswell on multiple occasions. However, his forward play was probably the best of many in the first half, and his two assists were wonderful deliveries that really won the game.


Craig Dawson
The defence was a touch shakier than anyone would have liked, but Dawson?EUR(TM)s threat on set pieces began to lift West Ham out of a rut even before he scored.


Issa Diop
The luck of the players. No one shone too brightly, but a very important block and a well taken goal are enough to have earned him a man of the match from this reporter.


Declan Rice
Two misplaced passes in 75, cutting out a few moves that could have been dangerous breaks and some good passing forward that broke the lines. Nothing spectacular, but a controlled performance in midfield was built on he and his partner.


Tomas Soucek
A controlled performance of typical Soucek fare. Bustling, battling and bombing forward on occasion. And a lack of finesse at times too.


Manuel Lanzini
His first-time passing is probably better than even Fornals and he controls possession in a way that makes him valuable on these nights, especially with a team lacking its usual rhythms from key players. Some of his passing around the area was excellent and deserved more.


Nikola Vlasic
It is worth saying with Vlasic that whilst he has yet to do much that catches the eye, he was good in possession and worked hard. He also doesn?EUR(TM)t look particularly suited to the wide role, so it would be good to see him given a go in that number 10 position he prefers before Benrahma goes to the Africa Cup of Nations. One ball across goal deserved better from Bowen and Yarmolenko, both of whom are often too eager to step away from goal rather than make the run towards.


Andriy Yarmolenko
Frustrating at times, it is interesting to see that he looks a little fitter this year and has definitely responded to calls for harder work in this West Ham side. Another who is valuable on nights like this as he clearly knows his game and knows he is better than the opponents he faces. It?EUR(TM)s a confidence and assurance that helps a heavily rotated side. Won the ball excellently for the third goal and defended well.


Jarrod Bowen
Caused problems when down the right but still doesn?EUR(TM)t seem to have found his feet as a striker. Missed one big chance and got very lucky with his goal, but he did deserve that after Sunday. Worked very hard, just needs to fine tune the details that make an attacker a striker.



Substitutes

Mark Noble
(Replaced Rice, 67) Didn?EUR(TM)t do anything wrong, but the game was done when he arrived and it was all about keeping it steady and letting the game drift to a finish.


Ryan Fredericks
(Replaced Cresswell, 67) Much the same as the above, except you could be forgiven for forgetting Fredericks had even played.


Said Benrahma
(Replaced Bowen, 83) So little happened in the final ten minutes that it?EUR(TM)s worthless rating the performances.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Vlasic, 83) As above. It is more curious why they were used at all.


Dan Chesters
(Replaced Lanzini, 89) It?EUR(TM)s a shame he didn?EUR(TM)t get on sooner, but still great to see and warmly received by the fans. He became the only thing that really held interest in his brief cameo.


Lukasz Fabianski
Did not play.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Nikola Vlasic, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jarrod Bowen.

Goals: Craig Dawson 45 Issa Diop 58 Jarrod Bowen 59              .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

KRC Genk: Vandevoordt, Preciado, Cuesta (Sadick 45), Lucumi, Arteaga, Thorstvedt (Toma 83), Hrosovsky, Heynen, Bongonda (Tresor 73), Onuachu (Ugbo 73), Ito (Oyen 83).

Subs not used: Chambaere, Leysen McKenzie, Geusens, Eiting, Paintsil, Nemeth.

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Donatas Rumsas.

Attendance: 45,000.

Man of the Match: Issa Diop.