Europa League
Rapid Vienna 0 West Ham United 2

Thursday, 25th November 2021
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham confirmed their dominance in Group H of the Europa League with a comfortable 2-0 victory away in Vienna, and with it claimed top spot with one game remaining.

In a frankly easy encounter, first half goals from Yarmolenko and a Mark Noble penalty were enough to take all three points. They will feel they should have scored more, with chances created throughout and the Hammers breaking through the Rapid defence with very little resistance.


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Changes were made across the team once more in the competition, with Aaron Cresswell getting a notable rest at left back, having started every game this season. Masuaku thrived down the left, especially in a first half where some of his direct play down the flank was too much for his counterpart, and the full back was one of eight changes after the defeat to Wolves at the weekend.

It was important game time for the likes of Coufal and Vlasic in particular, the former likely unhappy to have been forced out recently by the form of Johnson and the latter still struggling to nail down regular time on the pitch since his arrival in the summer.

The pace was set straight from the first whistle, two corners inside three minutes delivered poorly but showing the intent the side had come with.

Whilst the crosses were poor, soon chances were created out wide thanks to the creativity of the sparkling Masuaku. A quite wonderful first-time pass driven across the face of goal was nearly put in by Bowen, the forward getting to the ball on the slide, stretching to get there and putting his effort just wide. He possibly could have done better. Moments later, another bit of smart play from the left back saw the ball rolled into the path of Bowen once more, but an air-shot put paid to the chance on goal.

Vienna offered little, a half-chance smashed wide really all they had to show for their performance, whilst Yarmolenko was causing problems at the other end. It was one of his better performances for the club, the Ukrainian again showing in this competition the confidence to know he is better than his opponents, his display once more proving that a little bit of arrogance in these matches can help the players stamp their authority on the game.

He looked sharp and eager to score, fire his own half-chance just wide before shrewdly flicking on a freekick with his head, only for a Vienna defender to hook the ball away as it looked to be sailing in.

Exhibition football kept West Ham in control of the ball and the game, but it wasn't until the 40th minute that they finally broke the deadlock.


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It was the work of Vlasic down the left that created the chance, beating his man and getting to the byline before hanging his cross up to the far post. The goalkeeper hesitated, unable to reach the ball and scurrying across his goal, and the ball dropped to the head of Yarmolenko. The winger calmly headed it back across the goal and into the far corner for an easy opener and a reward for his vibrant start.

The chasm in quality between the two sides was clear throughout, but never more so than when the penalty was conceded in first-half stoppage time.

A smart and disguised pass round the corner by Noble found Yarmolenko in the box with his back to goal. For no discernible reason, the defender decided the best way to get the ball would be to run hard into the back of the forward, bringing him down and giving away one of the more needless penalties you will ever see.

With no time left for anything but the spot kick, the captain stepped up to take. His last added-time penalty was in rather more dramatic circumstances, no reminders needed, but this one was put home with consummate ease, with firmly with the inside of his foot into the top corner for a 2-0 half-time lead.

The second half was as simple a mission as the first, with the Hammers controlling the game and comfortable to let it drift to a conclusive finish and take advantage of any openings their hosts gave them. If you've missed this one, don't feel a burning desire to catch the game at another time.

There was the odd glimpse of lovely football, Vlasic and Lanzini combining wonderfully to feed Bowen in behind the defence. He should probably have shot, but instead tried to play the ball across goal and found his pass blocked. A defender went down in the box, a nasty collision with Lanzini flooring him, but Bowen played on.

From near the touchline, the forward drove back into the box and somehow beat three men in minimal space and was unfortunate to see his close-range effort squeeze under the goalkeeper but not far off to stay out of his reach to stop another Bowen chance.

West Ham were looking for a third, with fans knowing that surely the safety of a three-goal lead would allow the introduction of the Academy products that had taken the trip.


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It should have been added on the hour mark, Vienna the architects of their own downfall. A sloppy pass across the backline under no pressure went right to the feet of Yarmolenko. With a hint of swagger, the winger ran centrally towards the area before reversing a pass into the path of Soucek who had bombed forward from midfield.

One-on-one with the goalkeeper, the midfielder blasted directly at him with the whole goal to aim at. The rebound looped high and wide, headed back into the middle by Soucek and finding its way to Bowen. Once more, luck was not with him, his shot hitting the man on the line. Questions again can be asked of his ruthlessness in front of goal.

Changes were made, first with the introductions of Kral, Fornals and Benrahma for Soucek, Lanzini and Bowen. These were soon followed by a second set of changes, this time a touch more exciting as Ryan Fredericks was joined by Sonny Perkins, the 17-year-old coming on to make his debut.

Before his arrival, Benrahma was guilty of failing to square with Vlasic in acres of space in the middle, but it was the chance for the youngster that will have lifted fans off their seats.

A quite perfect cross from the right by Coufal, coming after great work in the middle by Kral, found Perkins unmarked. He jumped high and met the ball powerfully with his forehead, but the goalkeeper was the spoiler, thrusting a hand up to push the ball over. Not bad for a first touch in senior men's football, Perkins had done it all right and was unlucky to be thwarted.

The team wanted him to score, Fornals getting in behind after some more good work by Yarmolenko and trying to square to the forward. His pass was blocked, Perkins was well marked, and maybe in a tighter game the Spaniard would have gone for goal himself.

It mattered little in this tie, West Ham walking off the field 2-0 victors and securing their place at the top of the table, meaning Moyes and his men have only one more Europa League group game under no pressure before a break and the knockouts resuming in March.


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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
That must have been very boring.


Vladimir Coufal
Looked sharp and was a great passing option up and down the flank. Unlucky not to get an assist for a perfect cross to Perkins.


Arthur Masuaku
Arguably the most impressive performer. Chances he created with sharp passing, some first time, and beating men on the dribble too. Carried the threat early on until others woke up a bit.


Issa Diop
Wasn?EUR(TM)t challenged but what he did show was a comfort in using the ball on the left side of the defence.


Craig Dawson
Sloppy on the ball a few times, the work in defence was easy and he handled it all as such, but then threw in his unnecessary errors.


Mark Noble
Generally very good on the ball, as ever. Took the penalty well, one of his better strikes, and it means Mark Noble has scored in the Europa League for West Ham United, the kind of thing you just love to see in his final season. His pass to Yarmolenko for the penalty was lovely too.


Tomas Soucek
Controlled the middle well, the odd break through and should have scored with a big chance. Game was easy because players like him could control the opposition.


Manuel Lanzini
Neat and tidy but didn't impose himself like he has in other games in the competition.


Nikola Vlasic
His best performance so far, the assist topping off a game where he showed more intent, more energy and more threat. Much needed and good to see him adapting.


Andriy Yarmolenko
Man of the match here, carrying a threat and showing he can dominate teams at this level. If he is to leave West Ham, he has put himself in the shop window with performances like this. Took his goal well, won the penalty (although I'm not sure you can give credit for being battered for no reason) and made chances for Soucek and Fornals with clever passing.


Jarrod Bowen
His all-round performance was good, but he was let down by missing three or four big chances in front of goal. There are those who argue he is a perfectly good alternative to Antonio, but not on this evidence.



Substitutes

Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Lanzini, 65) Energetic and linked well with those around him.


Said Benrahma
(Replaced Bowen, 65) Had the energy he always brings and looked confident on the ball, but should have squared to Vlasic.


Alex Kral
(Replaced Soucek, 65) A more energetic performance from him having been forced out by Covid recently. Looks to be adapting to the style of play in this side.


Ryan Fredericks
(Replaced Masuaku, 77) If he had a left foot, he would be a useful asset down the left. He does not and it is more painfully clear with him than any other footballer.


Sonny Perkins
(Replaced Vlasic, 77) So unfortunate not to score, his run and movement so perfect. Pressed well, getting praise from the manager on the sidelines for his work off the ball for the team.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Aaron Cresswell
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Vladimir Coufal, Arthur Masuaku, Issa Diop, Craig Dawson, Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Nikola Vlasic, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jarrod Bowen.

Goals: Andriy Yarmolenko 40 Mark Noble 45                .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Rapid Vienna: Gartler, Hofmann, Aiwu, Moorman, Petrovic, Ljubicic (Grahovac 90), Arase (Ballo 75), Knasmullner (Grüll 59), Fountas (Strunz 90), Kitagawa (Kara 59).

Subs not used: Hedl, Orgler, Schick, Auer, Ullmann, Dijakovic, Sulzbacher.

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Sergey Ivanov.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Andriy Yarmolenko.