Conference League
West Ham United 3 FCSB 1

Thursday, 8th September 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

On a wet, dark and sombre day in London, West Ham United won their first game of the Europa Conference League group stage, beating FCSB 3-1.

The Hammers were underwhelming for an hour of the game, and went in behind at half time. But after a contentious penalty was awarded their way, David Moyes's took their chance and then turned on the style to punish their opponents and take all three points, and top spot of the group.


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FCSB, born from the ruins of former European giants Steaua Bucharest, have started their season similarly to West Ham, but a less than impressive domestic start can be forgotten in these European encounters.

It was the visitors who had the first chance, a sloppy touch back to his own box by Lanzini falling for the busy Cordea. His shot was poor, but the forward would cause West Ham's defence issues throughout the first half.

For West Ham, Benrahma buzzed but couldn't carve FCSB open, and whilst the Hammers had moments, the best chances were for the away side.

One came from a corner, where a mob in front of Areola kept the goalkeeper away from the ball. As it curled to the near post, Cordea was up to win the header, and as Areola flailed as he tried to force his way out, the forward headed over when he should have done better.

It was Cordea again, 10 minutes later, when a cross from the right was missed by Emerson at the back post, sailing at him at head height. The forward reacted to get his header on target, but should have done more. It went right at Areola.

With those warnings, you would think The Hammers may have woken up to the threat posed. They did not.

Another move down the right, and as it deflected forward, the ball was smartly used to feed a runner into the West Ham box. Instead of driving into the box, he slid a ball between defence and attack, across the face of goal. Everyone was beaten, except that man Cordea, who slotted home and gave his side a deserved lead.

Replays showed just how badly Emerson had done defending it. He never checked where his runner was, and never knew where he was in the box. With that in mind, it's no surprise he wasn't able to stop the goal.

Not long after, Scamacca missed one of two good chances.


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The first came from a simple Emerson cross from the left, right onto Scamacca's head as he stood unmarked in the middle of the goal. His header was poor.

A minute after, Downes - who was brilliant in his simple role - won the ball back and slid Scamacca through, but he dragged a limp shot wide.

It looked to be these moments that punctuated Moyes's half-time talk, but Areola had to be hero 30 yards from his own goal as a long ball got Cordea through.

The Romanians took their lead into the half-time break, and when they came back, it was to see three West Ham changes. On came Antonio, Paqueta and Bowen for Scamacca, Lanzini and Benrahma. The former two can have no complaints, but Benrahma was one of few attacking performers who seemed to be trying to make things work.

15 minutes into the second half, nothing had happened. Really, it had been 15 minutes of nothing football.

And then West Ham got a penalty.

There was a sense of irony to how it was won, the goalkeeper competing for a 50/50 in the air with Cornet after a straight ball forward by Paqueta. Just as it was about to nestle into the goalkeeper's hands, Cornet's head got to it. They collided, both went down, and the referee pointed to the spot.

You take all the lucky breaks you can get in football, and without VAR it could not be overruled, but this was harsh on the visitors. They had both jumped for a ball, and the goalkeeper had nowhere else to go. It wasn't even much of a follow through, it was just a collision.


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It was certainly forceful enough a collision to leave both grounded, and eventually Cornet was removed, walking off gingerly, and replaced by Fornals.

Bowen stepped up to take the penalty, and there is no better word to describe his finish than emphatic. Blasted to the goalkeeper's right, the ball smashed into the roof of the net and West Ham were level.

With it, the side came to life, led by rampaging Bowen runs. He was at the forefront of everything for the next 10 minutes. One brilliant run ended with a low cross into the box, where Antonio's chance was smothered.

He was involved in his side's second goal, too, although fortuitously. A Fornals pass across the back of the box was arrowing to the overlap of Coufal, but Bowen took it on his chest in the middle. The FCSB defender nearby will rue his tackle, his touch looping back into his area where Antonio stood unmarked. Had that been Bowen's touch forward, he would have been offside.

Instead, he's tackled when taking the ball down, but it dropped nicely for the run of Emerson, who followed it in and bundled the ball home for his first West Ham goal.

West Ham were in full control, Fornals forcing an excellent save after great work on the wing by Bowen.

They looked to have settled at 2-1, but with seconds remaining, they made it three. Lovely work in the middle from Downes got Rice free, whose forward pass to Fornals was suddenly at the toes of Antonio after a lovely backheel. Antonio didn't anticipate the ball, but what he did do was bully the defender off it, spin him, then drive at goal.

There was little to stop him, and he eventually got into the area and got a third, smashing in with his left foot to give West Ham a two-goal cushion. Across 90 minutes, they may not have deserved it, but the scintillating end showed the gap in class.

From London, on a day people will never forget, it was West Ham 3 FCSB 1.


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Manager's Rating

David Moyes 7/10: The starting team should have been good enough, but he was decisive with his changes and they were the key to victory.

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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
Poor on the chance for the corner, good off his line late in the first half.


Vladimir Coufal
Defensively sound, but some sloppy forward play and too many of those looped passes forward to no one.


Emerson Palmieri
Sloppy defensive play, and that is reflected by the fact he's scored and still got a 5. Could have been punished more than he was, and those big chances were his side.


Thilo Kehrer
Coasted through a game where he needed to take control. Should have showed his class, but didn't.


Angelo Ogbonna
Great to see him get through the 90 minutes, all important as he shakes off his injury, but the defence was not good enough.


Declan Rice
Could have taken better control of the first half, but was dominant by the second. Downes did more of the dirty work, but maybe Dec needs to put his captain's head on when the side aren't flowing and get back in, do the basics first and get that sorted.


Flynn Downes
A very effective performance, reminiscent of more early-days Rice. Simple, quiet, considered. Get in, win the ball, give it to someone else and make space if they want to give it back. Add in a lovely weighted pass to Scamacca and it's a performance that will have excited many, and they're desperate for him to be good anyway.


Said Benrahma
Persistent, determined, but not really able to find that space and make something happen. Unluckiest of the three who were hooked.


Maxwel Cornet
Another who worked hard, and being brave won him the penalty.


Manuel Lanzini
Lacks the dynamism and it is showing more and more. Last year, it was an issue but covered by his usual neat and tidy work. It might be that you just can't have him with Downes and Rice in games where West Ham are going to control the ball. Not enough pace to take the ball out of those deep positions, not enough direct passing to be useful receiving from Downes and Rice.


Gianluca Scamacca
Missed big chances, and they were very presentable chances.



Substitutes

Michail Antonio
(Replaced Scamacca 46) Once he took a hold of the game, he was in control of the FCSB defence. Took his goal well, could have had more and completely unsettled the defence.


Jarrod Bowen
(Replaced Benrahma 46) After scoring the penalty, he had a 10-15 minute spell where he was untouchable. Needs to maintain these bursts, as they haven't appeared against Premier League teams yet.


Lucas Paqueta
(Replaced Lanzini 46) Good ball for the penalty, controlled, worked hard.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Cornet 68) The inventive sparkle that was needed. Gets the ball forward quicker than others in midfield, but never aimlessly. Just has a creative vein to everything he tries, and it made a big difference.


Craig Dawson
(Replaced Ogbonna 90) BIG DAWS IS BACK.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Kristian Hegyi
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Thilo Kehrer, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Flynn Downes, Said Benrahma, Maxwel Cornet, Manuel Lanzini, Gianluca Scamacca.

Goals: Jarrod Bowen 69 Emerson Palmieri 74 Michail Antonio 90              .

Booked: Maxwel Cornet 39 Angelo Ogbonna 47 Emerson Palmieri 54      .

Sent off: None.

FCSB: Târnovanu, Crețu, Dawa (Haruț 87), Tamm, Radunović, Olaru (Rusu 90), Edjouma, Oaidă (Radaslavescu 90), Coman ( Popescu 71), Cordea, Compagno (Miculescu 70).

Subs not used: Vlad, Boboc, Bouhenna, Șerban, Pantea, Dulca, Stoica.

Goals: Cordea (34).

Booked: Cordea (34).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Benoît Bastien.

Attendance: 39,536.

Man of the Match: .