West Ham United 2 Rapid Vienna 0
Thursday, 30th September 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham took a commanding lead at the top of their Europa League group this evening with a comfortable 2-0 home victory at the London Stadium.With much fanfare beforehand, there was pressure on David Moyes?EUR(TM) side to take a second victory in the competition against an opponent struggling for form.
Goals from Declan Rice and Said Benrahma wrapped up a comfortable win, although a flat second half meant there was little chance to relax, the one goal lead always leaving the guests with a chance.
The Hammers controlled the first half from the opening whistle, taking hold of the ball and forcing back their opponents. Wien have struggled in the Austrian league, sitting second from bottom, and set their stalls out early.
This kind of test is one Moyes?EUR(TM)s side may have to become more accustomed to if their performances continue to impress. In years gone by, a deep defence has been a good way to nullify West Ham. How they adapt to it could go along way to deciding where they finish in this Europa League group, as well as progressing as a side generally.
There were very few moments throughout the first half to see that the away side would offer any more challenge than Zagreb had in the opening game.
In contrast, West Ham offered threat in play and from set pieces. They were allowed time on the ball in midfield as Wien set their line, forcing the hosts to move the ball around patiently and look for gaps. To their credit, the side didn?EUR(TM)t look to aimlessly force the issue.
Rice was the first to really threaten, guiding a header onto the post after a good Cresswell cross from a set piece. The midfielder was unlucky to see the ball ricochet off the inside of the post with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
With very little threat, all of a sudden Rapid Wien caught West Ham cold and had three against two as they poured towards goal. Luckily for Noble, who had been easily dispossessed, a shot from 25 yards rolled tamely into Areola?EUR(TM)s hands.
There were these little blips, but they didn?EUR(TM)t unsettle the home side. Soon another great Cresswell set-piece was hammered against the post once more, a corner delivered to the back post thundering off Dawson?EUR(TM)s head but only finding the woodwork.
It seemed just a matter of time for the Hammers, as long as they remained patient and didn?EUR(TM)t get frustrated. Thankfully, this team has a strong mentality ingrained throughout. Professional, intelligent, soon they got their reward.
Great credit should go to Yarmolenko, the winger moving central and picking up the ball in space. He looked up and curled a lovely ball just over the defender?EUR(TM)s head for Michail Antonio. The striker chested it down into the box and looked set to shoot, but had the vision to see the run of Declan Rice, stroking the ball across the face of goal for the midfielder to pass it into the net and give his side the lead with his second goal in the competition.
In the stands, things turned ugly. There had been clear incidents of projectiles thrown by the away fans at both home fans and players. With the goal against them, fans broke through a barrier and were forced back by stewards. There were also reports of chairs being ripped up and thrown.
The sides went in with West Ham comfortable with a 1-0 lead, an easier second half surely expected with the deadlock broken.
The second half, however, was one of the more incident-free 45 minutes of football you could see. West Ham just took their foot off the gas and came out with very little tempo. Frankly, it was dull.
Slowly, the visitors found encouragement from their tepid hosts. There was nothing that West Ham showed to worry their opponents and it only allowed more pressure and confidence for a team who had very little beforehand.
Moyes rang the changes on the hour, Lanzini, Bowen and Soucek all thrown on, but nothing really changed. They brought a fresh energy, but there was no rhythm to what the team were doing.
As Rapid opened up and started to take more control of the ball, Dawson and Diop stood up to the challenge. Any breaks they got, any balls into the box, the pair reacted. Dawson, in particular, was in front of everything.
Fortunately for West Ham, the Austrians offered very little threat. However, it can only take one moment of magic, one silly error can turn a game. It appeared that moment had been come as Ben Johnson was penalised for a trip in the West Ham box and the away side were given a penalty.
The players looked outraged, and soon it was clear why. Replays showed no contact on the challenge, and they also showed the forward dragging his leg and then clipping his own foot before tumbling down. The referee was sent to the VAR monitor and quickly reversed his decision.
It was enough to wake the crowd up, the roar coming forward in an effort to push the team on and bring them back to life.
What really worked for the team was the introduction of Pablo Fornals off the bench. The Spaniard did as he does, buzzing around and working hard whilst offering a deft touch and an eye for a pass.
It was him at his creative best that gave Bowen the chance to put the game to bed. A lovely ball through the defence with the outside of the boot guided Bowen through, and the makeshift forward went round the goalkeeper.
He collided with a defender rushing back, but had space and time to compose himself 8 yards from goal. He took a touch, but never lifted his head to see the space around him. Had he done so, he would have seen the time he had, instead of rushing an effort that he blazed high and wide when he should have done better.
The energy did finally come back to the side, and the attacks returned. The base of this was Rice, winning the ball in midfield repeatedly to start attacks.
Fornals did well once more, combining well down the left and then smashed one from the edge of the box that the goalkeeper saved well.
Stoppage time came and West Ham tried to keep the ball in the corner. With seconds remaining, they were disposed by the flag on the right and Rapid tried to play out.
A floaty forward pass was intercepted well by Lanzini, played wide to Bowen by Rice and passed across the box. Rolling towards Fornals though it was, Benrahma stretched to take it, pushed into the box and then turned onto his right foot.
With far too much ease, the Algerian passed the ball into the far corner and secured the win and the points.
It rounded off the game nicely. Whilst the performance was far from electric, we can only hope the slow tempo meant the players were not too drained with a rough tie ahead against Brentford on Sunday.
On a big night, the first European home game of this campaign and a day after unveiling a statue for some of 1965?EUR(TM)s heroes, it was important to push forward and take control of this group. With six points from the first two games, Moyes?EUR(TM)s side go three points clear at the top.
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Player RatingsAlphonse Areola
He certainly was on the pitch, but he didn?EUR(TM)t have anything to do and must have been bored.
Stuck to his task well at the back and was involved a lot going forward. Needs to work on that aspect of his game as his defensive fundamentals are solid.
He was very unlucky not to have two assists, more really with Dawson having other chances. Delivery much better today.
Unlucky not to score, especially when he hit the post, and made multiple blocks and headers when called upon.
He and Dawson were both clearly far too good to be particularly bothered by their opponents. One iffy moment on a high ball early but otherwise good.
Would be 9, but he too allowed his game to slow down and his foot came off the gas. But he was excellent in the first half and quietly did a lot of effective defensive work. Unlucky not have two goals.
550th professional appearance. One moment where he was caught sloppily on the ball, yet also some lovely passes. Still had a vision and deftness of pass that is missing in our central midfielders.
Seemed to be the central of the three supporting attackers at times but drifted out of the game even when we were on top. Moments of quality and bursts of inspiration, but not yet settled. Probably worth a go up front.
Looked the big threat in the first half and ghosted by players for fun. Came alive again late on and deserved his goal.
Certainly wasn?EUR(TM)t going to be bullied by the Rapid Wien defence, making sure he got one back on Wimmer after being clobbered. Lovely pass for the first goal, the vision great and the caress of the pass just lovely.
The assist was done very well and he caused issues early on. Not at his best but still a threat.
(Replaced Noble, 62) Very quiet but was diligent in defensive duties.
(Replaced Vlasic, 62) Got more involved and was excellent to stop a Rapid breakaway and start the move that got our second
(Replaced Antonio, 62) Added energy to a wilting side, set up a goal too. Should have scored and must improve in that area.
(Replaced Yarmolenko, 75) Lifted the team when he came on and should get a lot of credit. Before his arrival, it looked a team drifting to a sucker punch. Instead, Pablo got hold of the ball and brought life to the attack.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Nikola Vlasic, Said Benrahma, Andriy Yarmolenko, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Declan Rice 29 Said Benrahma 90 .
Booked: Issa Diop 75 .
Sent off: None.
Rapid Vienna: Gartier, Aiwu, Greiml (Stojkovic 62), Wimmer, Ullmann (Auer 74), Petrovic (Lubicic 81), Grahovac, Arase, Khasmullner, Fountas (Grull 62), Kara (Kitagawa 62).
Subs not used: Unger, Hedl, Bello, Schick, Hofmann.
Booked: Grahovac (44), Greiml (57) .
Sent off: None.
Referee: Tobias Stieler.
Man of the Match: Craig Dawson.