Conference League
FCSB 0 West Ham United 3

Thursday, 3rd November 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United became the first ever team to complete a perfect group stage and win all six of their games after a team sprinkled with young academy graduates beat FCSB 3-0 away in Romania.

The result was never really in doubt, and once West Ham and their young side settled, they controlled the game completely. It was arguably the best performance of the group game, and one full of joy as our young starlets sparkled.


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There were 10 changes from last time out, and two debuts, with young Ollie Scarles and Divin Mubama given a chance to shine. Scarles operated as a left wing-back, whilst Mubama led the line.

There was one early scare for the Hammers, Ben Johnson the first to make a mistake as his pass back to Areola instead went off for a corner. It was cleared, but when it eventually came back in, Coufal got caught between control and a pass back to his goalkeeper, instead leaving it between both. He was lucky that Aguerd strode over and cleared up.

And it was a languid, casual-looking stride, one of the many reasons West Ham fans have been purring over their Moroccan centre back in these European ties. Making his way back to full fitness, the defender has looked utterly serene whatever challenge is facing him, getting through his defensive work with ease.

That little wobble was soon forgotten and West Ham went forward with purpose, looking like a team who really wanted their perfect record in the competition.

Downes and Fornals soon took control of the game, whilst Lanzini and Coventry were almost unpassable deeper in midfield.

Downes nearly created the first goal inside five minutes, passing a ball across the face of goal that young Mubama couldn't get onto. It came out to Fornals, but his shot was saved.


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As this rotated team - a mixture of first teamers regaining form or fitness, players on the fringes and young academy players - got used to each other, patterns started to form and the passing got slicker, too slick for their hosts.

Fornals and Lanzini were the first to really find their rhythm together as a pair, exchanging quick passes and moving the ball up the pitch with control and guile. They combined well to free young Scarles on the left, and the wing-back whipped in a delicious low cross in that corridor of uncertainty. Mubama slid and toed at goal, but his effort was saved. It bounced out to Fornals just inside the box, but he couldn't get over the ball and still draw real power from his effort, softly volleying straight at the goalkeeper.

That left side, always so dominant for West Ham, was once again providing joy. After an exchange of passes with Scarles, Fornals curled in a ball that flew at goal, a beautiful cross with his right. It arrowed at goal, and Downes moved off his defender to get on the end of it. The midfielder tried to help it on its way into the far corner, a deft touch with the outside of his right boot as he leapt into the air. The subtlety was the right approach, but he gets a little too much on it, forcing a good save from the goalkeeper.

A chance again, and again Fornals was providing, pulling strings. This time, the Spaniard spreads from left to right with a lovely diagonal, which was cushioned down perfectly by Coufal for Downes on the edge of the area. He tries to push it and move, beat his marker, but he just isn't strong enough to push past to his touch.

When West Ham did finally break the deadlock five minutes before half-time, it was only fitting that the saluting Spaniard was the scorer.

With the ball in the West Ham half, Johnson looked up and fired a long ball over the defence. Fornals broke through the centre and showed that intelligence he offers so much of. With the ball coming across from his right, he let it bounce across him and into the area, dropping down onto his left boot. Just inside the box, he lashed it home. He had deserved it, not just for the play in this game, but the criticism that has come his way this season. When he's composed, he's cold and clinical.


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Was he offside? The flag did not go up, VAR was not in action. The replays show that the technology would probably have ruled it out.

There was so nearly another just before the break, Aguerd heading a corner at goal and seeing his effort deflected, only to roll to the space the goalkeeper had left diving for the initial effort. It rolled at goal, but the defender on the post was alive to the danger, clearing when a goal was inches away.

After half-time, the confidence only got stronger. FCSB looked well beaten, even with half the game to go in their own stadium and only one goal in it.

In contrast, Pablo Fornals was having the time of his life. The Spaniard was roaming free, and that allowed Scarles to fly forward down the left. He was up and down the flank providing with a wand of a left foot, and again crossed perfectly in that gap between defence and goalkeeper, but once more Mubama could just not get the touch.

All he needed was a little help. When Downes slid the ball wide to Coufal for a quite perfect curling right-footed cross, the young striker dived at it to head at goal. The ball looped into the back of the net and the 18-year-old wheeled away in delight, the emotion all over his face. "Just look at his face", you could scream, and it would have been worthy. 10 minutes into the second half, whatever was left of the game was done.

Sure, the header was going wide. And UEFA took the goal off him. But they cannot take away the moment, nor the promising debut performance.


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Scarles was consistently delivering, once again making the overlap as Fornals drifted inside then found another pass through the defence, The wing-back pulled out another beautiful delivery, again in that dangerous corridor. This one forced the goalkeeper into action, or at least compelled him to dive out and palm away the cross.

It came out to Fornals in the box, who took a touch and then slid to beat the onrushing goalkeeper and hammer the ball home for his second of the night.

With that, changes were signalled. The young Hammers on the bench were readied. Thrown into the fray before the night was out were all of Appiah-Forson, Potts, Ashby, Simon-Swyer and Casey, And The Hammers still controlled the game, Lanzini taking responsibility further forward as the experience around him was taken off.

The one real last chance came to Ogbonna, although Scarles did poke wide when he should have scored. It was a better chance, but it wasn't your creaking centre back marauding forward then carrying on his run after the lay-off and getting the through ball back to him.

On the left side of the area, the Italian squeezed a shot at the near post, but the goalkeeper reacted well to push it behind.

There was a late FCSB chance blocked brilliantly by Aguerd, but the game finished with a raft of youth players celebrating a 3-0 win away in Romania. What other frustrations have arisen this season, this was another proud night in the club's history, and the first West Ham team to win in Romania.


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Manager Rating

David Moyes 10/10
All his selections worked, he used all the young players for subs and his team controlled the game.


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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
A couple easy saves on a quiet night.


Ben Johnson
Could have used the ball better on a number of occasions. When he backed himself, he was good.


Oliver Scarles
The 16-year old, the sixth-youngest ever West Ham player, but goodness was he good once he got going. Those crosses were delicious. Defended well, just brilliant.


Angelo Ogbonna
Some good old fashioned no nonsense Ogbonna defending in there, but a really controlled performance.


Nayef Aguerd
It just looks too easy for him. Made great passes, cleaned up for others when they made errors and defending brilliantly.


Conor Coventry
A simple, combative performance, looked like a young Mark Noble.


Manuel Lanzini
Calm and controlled, but rarely fussed either. Could have played in some of the younger players late on, turning down the opportunity.


Vladimir Coufal
Early mistake aside, another good performance. Lovely cross for the own goal.


Flynn Downes
His hard work to regain possession in the FCSB half got West Ham off on the right foot. Should have scored and faded a touch, but a strong showing.


Pablo Fornals
The real Pablo Fornals turned up, finding space, roaming where he needed and just finding dangerous areas, providing incisive passes and really making West Ham tick The goals were excellent, but so were his passes and crossing.


Divin Mubama
Was really unlucky not to have scored before the goal, and unlucky not to be given it. He made the right runs and posed a threat, and that helped Downes and Fornals excel.



Substitutes

Harrison Ashby
(Replaced Coufal 66) Delivered one delightful ball and came on full of energy.


Freddie Potts
(Replaced Fornals 66) Did nothing wrong in a dead game. Did line up a shot from 30 yards before remembering he?EUR(TM)s a Potts and changing his mind.


Keenan Appiah-Forson
Downes 66) Did nothing wrong in a dead game.


Kamarai Simon-Swyer
(Replaced Mubama 77) Did nothing wrong in a dead game.


Kaelan Casey
(Replaced Johnson 77) Did nothing wrong in a dead game.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Krisztián Hegyi
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ben Johnson, Oliver Scarles, Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd, Conor Coventry, Manuel Lanzini, Vladimir Coufal, Flynn Downes, Pablo Fornals, Divin Mubama.

Goals: Pablo Fornals 40 Joyskim Dawa og 55 Pablo Fornals 65              .

Booked: Nayef Aguerd 32 Divin Mubama 71 Oliver Scarles 73      .

Sent off: None.

FCSB: Târnovan, Pantea, Dawa, Bouhenna, Radunović, Edjouma, Dulca (Radaslavescu 45), Oaidã (Olaru 45), Cordea (c) (Stoica 45), Compagno (Rusu 59), Popescu (Coman 60).

Subs not used: Vlad, Cretu, D'imiter, Boboc.

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Sascha Stegemann.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Oliver Scarles.