Conference League
West Ham United 3-1 Viborg FF 

Thursday, 18th August 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham got their first win of the season this evening, taking a 3-1 lead into the second leg of their Europa Conference play-off against Danish side Viborg.

It was never really as comfortable as it should have been, a slow and sloppy first half eventually improved in the second after the introduction of Pablo Fornals.

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In the end, the Hammers wrapped things up and were just too much for a game Viborg, the away side proving themselves more than fodder as they passed neatly and stopped West Ham getting into their flow for most of the game.

A first West Ham goal for Gianluca Scamacca was followed by second half goals from Jarrod Bowen and substitute Michail Antonio, getting all three of the side's key goalscorers off the mark for the season.

The first half had very little to write home about. A wave of changes from Sunday's defeat at Nottingham Forest saw only Coufal, Bowen, Johnson and Soucek start from that team. The suspended Aaron Cresswell remains the only natural left back in the squad, and with his deputy Ben Johnson forced into a central defensive role by injuries, Coufal was forced to play on the left side of the defence.

There was a notable return to first team football for Angelo Ogbonna, kept out with injury since November last year. Cornet made his first start, as did the striker Scamacca, whilst there were starts, too, for Academy graduates Harrison Ashby and Conor Coventry.

Whether that was to blame for the tempo of the first half or not, remains to be seen, but the Hammers were far from good. Their manager, stuck in the stands due to his own suspension, was clearly unhappy watching on from the heights of the London Stadium seating, watching an insipid display that could have been punished, had Viborg's lovely passing football developed into anything that threatened goal.

One early half chance for Scamacca was all West Ham had to show for the opening 20 minutes of football, and they struggled to find any rhythm in their play.

But what they did have was quality individuals, and whilst many of the new players find their feet in David Moyes's side, it was likely to be this that pulled them over the line against their play-off opponents.

It was one of those moments from the new boys that gave West Ham a lead after 25 minutes. A ball curled down the left by Coufal found Cornet, who feinted not once, but twice to get the space on his left foot for the cross. Floated into the middle, the 6'5 frame of Scamacca leapt high into the air and had it far too easy as he headed into the bottom corner from six yards out, and gave his side the lead with his first West Ham goal.

A simple chance though it was, the clinical nature of a natural goalscorer was enjoyed by all West Ham fans.

The striker was the most intently watched man inside the London Stadium, the relatively small crowd clearly eager for a striker to find his feet in the claret and blue.

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They were offered little more to get them on their feet, the striker having a thunderously hit effort blocked from just outside the area ending up the only real threat on goal West Ham created in the rest of the half.

Still, many will have been even happier to see the Italian chase back from penalty box to deep in his own half to halt a Viborg counter

The camera returned often to Moyes in the stands as the half faded away, his stern expression suggesting the manager might be sending harsh words down for his staff to pass on in the dressing room.

When they returned for the second half, Fornals was introduced to replace Manuel Lanzini, and he raised the energy levels of his team.

Now, the Hammers made more effort to press their opponents on the ball. It allowed them a much better handle on the game, affording them control and, ultimately, more time on the ball as they started to dominate possession.

The visitors were afforded little chance to create anything, although Areola was forced to rush out smartly and block a Grot effort inside the area as the big striker got in behind.

Whilst West Ham improved after the break, they were still some way off their best as 20 minutes of the second half ticked by. It needed something different, someone to beat their man. Fornals had brought on a more direct, creative passing presence, but the players still remained too static with the ball.

Then Bowen beat his man on the spin some 30 yards from goal and saw his chance. Three more touches forward, and with no defender rushing out to meet him, the England international drove it hard and low from 20 yards out and it rifled into the bottom corner, drifting away from the goalkeeper too quickly and arrowing into the bottom corner to give West Ham a more convincing lead, and a cushion to take into the second leg.

The relief in the crowd was clear, you could sense many felt like this was job done, and the manager took the opportunity to make three more changes.

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With a good 65 minutes under their belts, off came Ogbonna, Bowen and Scamacca for the debut boy Thilo Kehrer,as well as Benrahma and Antonio.

Almost immediately, the Danes pulled one back. A pass back to Areola from Kehrer was to his weaker foot, and as the goalkeeper compensated to clear with his right, he kicked far too close to the touchline and the ball was soon in a Viborg hand for the throw.

Reacting quickly, they moved it from the right and into the centre, and as Fornals overcommitted to block the pass, the ball was round him easily and a wide space was open in the middle of the West Ham half.

As the defence reacted, an overlap on the left was found, and the cross to the far post was perfect for Bonde to attack, beating Coufal in the air and heading in from close range to half the deficit and give his side a way back into the tie and the game.

The visitors grew in confidence, and as West Ham tried to settle having conceded right after three substitutions, it was Viborg who were suddenly on top. A fizzing effort from the edge of the box was tipped over by Areola.

West Ham had fallen flat, but on the back of one of his best performances in a West Ham shirt, Benrahma's confidence was up.

Receiving the ball on the left, the Algerian eyed up his defender briefly and then decided he could beat him, a quick step over and Benrahma had beat him on the outside. Most players, having got into the box on the byline, would have hit it into the middle as quickly as they could. Not Benrahma. An extra touch or two was followed by a pass fizzed into the feet of Antonio about four yards from goal, and the striker flicked it into an empty net to give his side that two-goal lead once more, with just over 10 minutes on the clock.

With the little time that was left, West Ham should probably have done better to see the game out. Viborg created pressure on the West Ham defence, a couple crosses and corners getting hearts in mouths, but ultimately they were well beaten. There was still time for Cornet to force a good save with an acrobatic volley at the back post after a Coufal cross, but it stayed 3-1.

And how a result was needed, the icing on the cake being each of this season's key scorers getting off the mark for the season, as well as the Hammers ending a run of six games without a win at home.

The confidence boost was needed, as were the minutes for many of the players. It's allowed that positive feeling to return after frustration over two defeats to start the season.

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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
Did reasonably well, with one good save and a few other decent but comfortable stops.

Harrison Ashby
Solid, passed well, and one good shot from outside the area. Didn?EUR(TM)t really offer a consistent threat on the overlap, which the game might have needed.

Vladimir Coufal
A lot of credit for Coufal, who often looks the least comfortable of professional footballers when forced to use his left. By the end, he created a good chance for Cornet. Played well with Cornet once both had settled.

Ben Johnson
Looked comfortable in the centre, not particularly tested but in control.

Angelo Ogbonna
Much the same as Johnson, although the Italian did get involved in some tussles for the ball when stepping out of the back line, which was good to see as he makes his way back from such a serious injury.

Conor Coventry
Held the midfield, sitting deeper, similar to how Rice played against Forest. Rather ruffled, keeping things ticking over, but was even quieter when Fornals came on and was dropping deep to try and start attacks.

Tomas Soucek
A very simple and quiet game for him. Got into the box for attacks, but no real impact.

Jarrod Bowen
Wasn?EUR(TM)t really getting into the game too much before eventually coming to life, beating his man and scoring from range. It was a needed bit of direct play.

Maxwel Cornet
Showed more life than Bowen, but also went in and out of the game. But made the goal for Scamacca, offered a threat in and around the box and worked hard.

Manuel Lanzini
Just lacked the dynamism to make an impact. Really, it wasn?EUR(TM)t a game where you needed Coventry sitting playing simple passes and Lanzini?EUR(TM)s short and steady passing game.

Gianluca Scamacca
Took his goal well and his movement was good. Eager, mobile and happy to dart out wide as well, and Cornet was happy to move into the space he left.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Lanzini 45) It wasn?EUR(TM)t so much the individual bits he did, but the energy and the desire to pass forward, and try dangerous passes, that made the difference.

Said Benrahma
(Replaced Bowen 67) One big moment and it was all down to his individual brilliance. There just isn?EUR(TM)t another West Ham player who would have done it, the confidence to take his extra touches and not panic because space was tight.

Michail Antonio
(Replaced Scamacca 67) Just in the right place to tuck away the goal, and it?EUR(TM)s the kind of goal he needs to be scoring regularly.

Thilo Kehrer
(Replaced Ogbonna 67) Looked calm in defence and on the ball, and proved quickly that he is comfortable defending and using both feet.

Flynn Downes
(Replaced Coventry 84) The game was dead by the time he came on.

Darren Randolph
Did not play.

Nathan Trott
Did not play.

Jamal Baptiste
Did not play. Other unused subs: Pierre Ekwah, Dan Chesters, Armstrong Okoflex

Kurt Zouma
Did not play. Other unused subs: Pierre Ekwah, Dan Chesters, Armstrong Okoflex

Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Harrison Ashby, Vladimir Coufal, Ben Johnson, Angelo Ogbonna, Conor Coventry, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Maxwel Cornet, Manuel Lanzini, Gianluca Scamacca.

Goals: Gianluca Scamacca 23 Jarrod Bowen 64 Michail Antonio 78              .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Viborg FF: Lund, Anyembe (Gaaei 34) Zaletel, Burgy, Sorensen, Gronning, Zamburek (Berger 87), Leemans (Sondergaard 66), Bonde (87), Grot, Lonwijk (Mortimer 66).

Subs not used: Killerich, Lauritsen.

Goals: Bonde (69).

Booked: Sondergaard.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Marco Di Bello.

Attendance: 30,230.

Man of the Match: Gianluca Scamacca.