Conference League
Silkeborg 2 West Ham United 3

Thursday, 15th September 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

It's two wins from two in the Europa Conference League group stages for West Ham, but it was another game where The Hammers were less than convincing as they stumbled over the line for their 3-2 win in Denmark.

After Silkeborg took the lead against the run of play, West Ham mostly dominated the first half and went in at the break with a 3-1 lead. But a second half that meandered almost pointlessly was suddenly brought back to life as the hosts scored a second with 15 minutes remaining and then pressed to take a point they will feel they deserved.


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In the end, David Moyes's side had enough to see the game out, but with no degree of certainty or assuredness. The manager was left fuming on the sidelines as he saw his team waste possession and territory, turning the ball over in promising or simple situations and allowing the hosts to come flying back at them.

The Hammers made three changes from that win last time out at home to FCSB, with a first start of the season for Craig Dawson, and starts for Cresswell and Paqueta. Ogbonna, Downes and Benrahma dropped to the bench as West Ham played the back three/five hybrid that seems to be at the forefront of the manager's thinking early in the season.

The game was played on an artificial pitch, one of those oddities thrown up by European football, and the slick, firm surface took some time to settle on. West Ham went about that by keeping the ball and getting used to the flow of possession, but after five minutes of dominating the ball, they were suddenly behind.

Silkeborg kept the ball nicely on the left, moving it between players as they probed for a gap. It was Kehrer who was the man to make the important first move, and the Danes exposed his decision. As he rushed out, the ball was slipped to the left channel, the runner kept onside by Dawson dropping deep.

Rice went in to cover the space left by the Kehrer, and the ball was cut back to where Rice would have been. Kusk passed it from the edge of the penalty area into the gap at the near post, and Areola was rooted to the spot as he tried to stop his momentum taking him across the other side of the goal.

And it was 1-0 to the home side. The game's pattern was not altered by the change to the scoreline, with West Ham immediately back to controlling the ball and looking to find gaps in Silkeborg's deep defensive shell.

Seasoned West Ham fans will know a deep defence can cause The Hammers problems, but the quality difference was sure to make the best out of the situation.

It was again the hosts with the next opening, Rice flicking a ball off an opponent's toe on the edge of the area, but Dawson backed off and allowed him to regain and then shoot. Luckily, the effort was poor.

Silkeborg will know that these little openings were to be all the more important against high-quality opposition. And so it was, as West Ham went down the other end of the pitch and won themselves a penalty.


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It came from a smart switch out wide by Scamacca, which was taken down excellently by Coufal before he hit a cross on the bounce. Cornet ran to meet it, ahead of his defender, and then slowed as the ball approached.

The man behind him didn't, bundling into the back of the Ivorian. It was a touch soft, but it was enough contact to hinder the forward. Lanzini stepped up, slipped a touch as he took it, but got strong enough contact to beat the goalkeeper, even with a pair of fingertips gracing it on its way to the corner.

Just over 10 minutes later, The Hammers had the lead.

This time, Silkeborg tried to play out of defence and were punished for it. A sloppy pass into a central area was picked up and quickly passed forward to Scamacca.

The Italian was a touch subdued today, but it was subtlety that earned him space. He took a few steps away from his man as they tried to play out, and then was in space to receive. He took a touch to get it out of his feet and then slapped a driven shot into the roof of the net from just outside the area, a blast from his right boot. 25 minutes gone, it was West Ham 2-1 up.

The Hammers were soon very unlucky to have two very good opportunities robbed from them by poor officiating, two offside calls that were comfortably wrong when both men had got in behind and in on goal.

But they were grateful for the poor performance of the refereeing team not long after. The Danes were given a corner - one they should not have had, the last touch clearly theirs - and as it was delivered into the middle, Areola ran out and ran straight into a standing Silkeborg player.

Areola dropped to the floor, and the ball landed in the back of the net, headed into an empty goal. Thankfully for the visitors, the referee had blown for a foul on Areola.

The Hammers did show flashes of their quality in possession, some lovely moves that were just a final pass or shot away from something special, but it was a classic Moyes's West Ham goal that gave them a two-goal advantage not long before half-time.


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After a lovely move ended with an Emerson shot pushed wide, Cresswell delivered a dipping corner to the front post. All West Ham eyes were on one man, and he did not fail to deliver. Storming through the packed box, Craig Dawson was under it, heading onto his own shoulder and into the back of the net to restart the Ballon Dawson tour of Europe once more. And give his side a 3-1 lead going into the break.

Honestly, in the second half, no more bland a game of football has ever interrupted an evening.

It is incumbent upon a match reporter to describe the action, summarise and explain what they have seen of the game they are watching. More tactical minds may have found something interesting to say about the first 30 minutes of the second half, but they are not this reporter.

In an effort to fill space, I must admit I missed about three minutes to deal with a fight outside between two cats. I am promised I missed nothing. No cats were harmed in the writing of this match report.

Lord only knows where the minds of the West Ham players were, but it did not appear to be in extending or protecting their lead. Just merely playing until they were made to stop.

The manager made changes, either out of a desire to wake his team up, something preplanned or, in fact, just boredom. Benrahma, Bowen and Soucek for Paqueta, Scamacca and Rice, just beyond the hour.

It can definitely be said that the changes didn't help. Whether it was a lack of intensity of the players they were joining, poor individual performances or an inability to adapt to the pitch at the same time as adapting to the pace of the game, the substitutions were not successful.

Worst was Bowen, who was poor on and off the ball. Benrahma will get criticism, but he was often let down after making good runs or looking to exchange passes. Bowen, on the other hand, will not make a World Cup squad if he plays like this for England in the international break.

He was not the only man to blame for the goal that suddenly set the game alight again, but his contribution was the most patently stupid.


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It came from a West Ham corner that was cleared to the edge. Bowen took possession and chose to run away from goal, attempting to dart between three opponents instead of taking two or three pass options. He was dispossessed, having lead the Danes forward to counter. As Lanzini lunged after the ball and was left behind, suddenly it was three from Silkeborg flying at one solitary West Ham defender.

With three men flying forward, the Danes took the wrong choice, pushing it wide then taking on a shot. It was at Areola, but the French goalkeeper parried it into the centre, where Tengstedt bundled it home.

It had come from Adamsen's drive forward, and the substitute came on with intent to cause problems. He was the man leading the charge, and soon forced a good save in the box from Areola as he spun between two defenders.

Fornals was thrown on for Cornet, presumably to try and get hold of the ball. But West Ham's lack of intensity when comfortable was now exposed as they couldn't find the gears they needed to match Silkeborg, who had their tails up chasing a big result.

Passes went astray, opportunities wasted, and no rhythm at all in the side. Before the substitutions, at least they maintained shape and balance. Now, it just seemed to be chaos.

In that chaos, Silkeborg could have got their equaliser. There was more rash defending from Kehrer, rushing out from defence to apply pressure where it wasn't needed and he could not really get to. Tengstedt moved into space in the middle and the ball found him.

He looked to have turned between his two defenders, but as he moved to goal, a slipping Coufal got a toe to the ball to divert it away from the attacker.

It was the last chance of the game, as West Ham fell over the line. In Romania, FCSB held Anderlecht to a 0-0 draw, meaning The Hammers have a two-point gap at the top of their group after two games.

Hopefully, the games against Anderlecht - long labelled the most important of the group - will serve up something a little better to watch.


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Manager's Rating

David Moyes 5/10: It's a very defensive set up when you need slick use of the ball against packed defences. The substitutions only made things worse, and whilst he can't be blamed for the individual errors, the buck stops with the manager.


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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
If you forgive him for being caught out on the first, the disallowed goal and then the second goal were both abysmal bits of goalkeeping.


Vladimir Coufal
The toe that poked the ball away from Tengstedt was likely crucial, whilst it was good play from him down the right to provide the cross when Cornet was fouled. Still not great passing the ball in tight areas, but has these defining moments and qualities that make him important.


Aaron Cresswell
Didn't struggle with the same outright complacency or poor defensive decisions that others did, and whipped in the perfect corner for Dawson to head in.


Thilo Kehrer
Rash and aggressive defending saw Kehrer caught out twice, one time that was punished and a second that very much should have been.


Craig Dawson
Big Daws back with headed goals in Europe, but some sloppy defending in there.


Emerson Palmieri
Energetic, but not incisive enough going forward, and a quite sloppy defender.


Declan Rice
His presence was missed massively when he was taken off. Just fills gaps, covers players, is in the right place when he's needed. And he's calm on the ball. When he was taken off, no one else had any of that.


Manuel Lanzini
A better game than some of his poor performances this season, but looked exposed once Rice went off.


Lucas Paqueta
Neat, tidy, smart with the ball. Nothing showy, nothing too impressive, but just assured.


Maxwel Cornet
He wasn't good in the second half, but was vital to two goals and caused a threat in the first half.


Gianluca Scamacca
Subdued but took his goal well, and the team missed his presence when he went off. The ball came back more.



Substitutes

Said Benrahma
(Replaced Paqueta 63) Had his teammates been awake, Benrahma would have been able to shine. Unfortunately, they were not, and his movement was often ignored, his teammates not receptive to the quick football he wanted to play.


Jarrod Bowen
(Replaced Scamacca 63) A very bad cameo. Wake up, Jarrod, or you won't just lose your England place.


Tomas Soucek
(Replaced Rice 63) By no means the worst offender of the subs, and actual managed to make some good defensive contributions, but couldn't be the calming presence he was meant to be.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Cornet 86) About as bad as Bowen, and had he had more time, he might have been.


Conor Coventry
(Replaced Lanzini 90) N/A


Lukasz Fabianski
Did not play.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Thilo Kehrer, Craig Dawson, Emerson Palmieri, Declan Rice, Manuel Lanzini, Lucas Paqueta, Maxwel Cornet, Gianluca Scamacca.

Goals: Manuel Lanzini 13 Gianluca Scamacca 25 Craig Dawson 38              .

Booked: Aaron Cresswell 89          .

Sent off: None.

Silkeborg: Larsen, Sonne, Salquist, Felix, Engel (Klitten 46), Þórðarson, Brink, Klynge (Kaalund 62), Tengstedt, Kusk (Jørgensen 62), Helenius (Adamsen 62).

Subs not used: Hedvall, Østrøm, Mattsson, Dahl, Oggesen, Calisir, Busch.

Goals: Kusk (5), Tengstedt (75).

Booked:  Salquist (11), Klynge (22).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Fabio Verissimo.

Attendance: 6,702.

Man of the Match: Aaron Cresswell.