Europa League
West Ham United 2-0 Freiburg 

Thursday, 14th December 2023
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United topped their Europa League group once again with a 2-0 victory against Freiburg on Thursday evening at the London Stadium.

Only needing a draw to confirm top spot of Group A, The Hammers controlled the game from start to finish, two first half goals from Mohammed Kudus and Edson Alvarez enough to end the game as a contest.

Embed from Getty Images

The West Ham team was unsurprisingly strong, the manager likely desperate to finish top of the group, saving his players from two difficult Thursday night games in February as much on his mind as the extra step of progress it gives them in the competition.

As ever, Kurt Zouma was not expected to play two games in a week, and Fabianski continued to deputise for Areola in what has otherwise become West Ham's preferred starting 11 this season.

One notable tweak was the positioning of Ward-Prowse and Soucek, who swapped roles, the Czech midfielder sitting deeper whilst Ward-Prowse was tasked with being more advanced and doing much more defending on the front foot. It certainly suited the Englishman, and gave West Ham a much more energised and capable press.

The game started at a good pace, both sides looking to get on the ball and make things happen. The visitors headed over from a corner inside a minute, sharpening the focus of all the players right from the off. There was to be no easing yourself into this one.

The Germans weren't the only ones up for it from the start, and Paqueta was terribly unlucky not to open the scoring just inside the five-minute mark. After Kudus twisted and turned his way down the line, his cross from the right was flicked away to the edge of the area by a Freiburg defender.

It bounced kindly to Paqueta, who stepped onto it for a first-time strike with his right foot. He met it sweetly, almost too sweetly as it rifled off his boot and cannoned off the bar with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot, and mightily relieved to see it bouncing away to safety.

Any concerns that illness was still affecting the squad seemed to disappear quickly as the energy shone through. Alvarez showed good awareness and a burst of speed to cut off Doan as he skipped through two into the box, the kind of thing lacking at the weekend.

That kind of thing is the Mexican's bread and butter, yet his defending has been taken for granted by some this season, who see him as a midfielder who is limited in possession. Yet it was the Mexican who unpicked the Freiburg defence to set up the first goal of the game.

Embed from Getty Images

After some nice possession, Alvarez decided to step forward into the space in front of him. Nobody came to pressure him, so the midfielder was free to look up and see Kudus angling a run from the right and behind the defence.

His run was timed perfectly as Alvarez guided a pass right into the path of the Ghanaian's run. Taking it on into the area, Kudus was composed, taking it close to goal and then placing it firmly past the goalkeeper to give his side the lead on 15 minutes.

West Ham were the better team, and that was true throughout. Having won well in Germany, they looked confident here, playing the ball around with an ease and tempo unlike the majority of their league games. It was a stark contrast to the battering at the weekend by Fulham.

The confidence grew, and as the team looked more gelled, individuals stepped up and looked to play with more ambition. Bowen was a fine example, dropping into pockets of space well to collect the ball and drive at goal, although his shooting from range needs improvement.

The forward did score just after 25 minutes, but the flag was up, and up rightly. Still, it was The Hammers making all the play.

Freiburg struggled to create anything amounting to a clear chance, whilst West Ham were still pushing forward. Soucek could have done much better with a half-volley in the box after a long throw was only headed down to him, but the midfielder smashed it high and a long way over the bar.

As it seemed the home side would take a 1-0 lead into the half-time break, Edson Alvarez again showed what else he keeps in his locker whilst patrolling in defensive midfield. It came after Paqueta smartly turned a ball round the corner and into Alvarez around 25 yards from goal. He took it on, laid it off to Bowen on the edge of the box and carried on his forward run.

Bowen turned quickly and rolled it through to Alvarez, who stayed composed, took a touch and moved it closer to goal before hammering home his first goal for the club and extending his side's lead to a comfortable 2-0. It sent his side in at the break in complete control of the game and their group.

The Hammers didn't use the rest to dwell on their dominance, coming back out with the right attitude and creating a good chance within a few minutes. It was Emerson's, Paqueta clipping him into the box down the left-hand side. Coming in at an angle, he was quickly closed down by the goalkeeper, and hit right at him.

Embed from Getty Images

Freiburg never really threatened to make this game tense. They had the odd moment, mostly coming from Doan, who had the skill and close control to bother any defender one-on-one. Their moments were fleeting, and their finishing substandard.

Paqueta played R??hl in at the defence from the halfway line, a blind pass rolling right to his opponent, but the forward could only hit his eventual shot straight at Fabianski.

At the other end, Bowen should have extended West Ham's lead a minute later, Coufal producing a perfect cross behind the defence and curling right to Bowen, but the striker's effort was weak, only scuffing off the turf in front of him when positioned in the six-yard box.

Kudus soon slapped wide after a nice move between the winger and Bowen, their understanding growing with every game, but that flurry of chances inside the first 10 minutes of the half soon gave way.

Fornals replaced Alvarez, the Mexican said to still be carrying illness, moving Paqueta into the middle, and West Ham really started to play the game out. Now players walked in possession, moving the ball to keep it, and Freiburg seemed to accept their fate, too, with workrate to win possession dropping notably.

Soon Ings and Mubama replaced Paqueta and Bowen, and there were late appearances for Cornet and Kehrer, too, but there was only one real moment of note that remained as the impressive Doan forced Fabianski down low to his left to palm a low, curling shot wide of goal. The rebound fell to a Freiburg player, but was blasted over from close range.

And so West Ham topped the group, saving them a tie against one of the third-placed Champions League sides, and saving them from two midweek games in a tight February schedule.

This was an impressive performance, professional but progressive, entertaining to watch and showing much more skill and intent in possession than has been on show for most of this season. Hopefully, this arrests the slide that could have come from a pasting by Fulham, but with so many games to play this month, one still wonders how the manager will manage the minutes.

Embed from Getty Images

Manager's Rating

David Moyes 8/10: Went strong, saw his team win it early and then manage the game. Maybe could have used his bench a little earlier, but wanted to make sure it was not to be a mad conclusion to the game.

* Want to submit your match reports to More details here ...

 Click to view all West Ham United vs Freiburg match reports

 Click to view all match reports by Chris Wilkerson

Like to share your thoughts on this article? Please visit the KUMB Forum to leave a comment.

Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Whilst not called on often, did well when required.

Vladimir Coufal
Managed his flank well, and kept Sallai quiet, whilst offering a threat in the final third.

Emerson Palmieri
Could have done better with his chance, but was otherwise good. Doan did have the beating of him on occasion.

Konstantinos Mavropanos
Comfortable and composed, he was hardly tested but played well.

Nayef Aguerd
Looked in complete control at the back, both of his opponents and his team. Cool and calm, mopping up well with his pace and making useful contributions in possession.

Edson Alvarez
Good defensive work, a very good assist and a very well-taken goal. Both goals came from his willingness to move into the space in midfield that Freiburg were allowing him, and he exposed it to make the difference.

Tomas Soucek
Kept his passing simple and sharp, and is much more suited to defending in deeper areas than Ward-Prowse, and his passing is much more excused if he just stays neat and unambitious back there.

James Ward-Prowse
Looks better in the more advanced role, where he gets to show his workrate, his pressing (which looked better as a team with him there), and knit things together from the two behind him.

Lucas Paqueta
The odd sloppy moment, the odd brilliant one. Great pass to get Alvarez moving for his goal, a nice chance created for Emerson, and so unlucky to hit the bar. But then he plays a careless pass or dallies in possession and the opposition can counter.

Mohammed Kudus
Quietly moving his way into Hammer of the Year contention, so far. His sixth goal for the club, his 10th of the season if you include four for Ajax, and a constant threat. Really suits a Moyes team, due to his ability to dribble under pressure, especially on his back.

Jarrod Bowen
As a player who drifted out of games anyway on the right, it's not too alarming seeing him quiet in spells as a striker. If anything, he's more involved in the game now, and he's doing well under the pressure of centre backs. He's never going to bully them like Antonio did, but he's stronger than his size suggests and he does a decent job.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Alvarez, 55) The game was very flat for the last half hour, but Fornals added a wide option and played reasonably well.

Divin Mubama
(Replaced Bowen, 72) Didn't get involved and wasn't strong in possession.

Danny Ings
(Replaced Paqueta, 72) Quiet, but did well in dropping in to keep possession ticking over.

Thilo Kehrer
(Replaced Coufal, 88) n/c

Maxwel Cornet
(Replaced Kudus, 88) n/c

Alphonse Areola
Did not play.

Ben Johnson
Did not play.

Aaron Cresswell
Did not play. Other unused subs: Angelo Ogbonna, Conor Coventry, Said Benrahma

Kurt Zouma
Did not play. Other unused subs: Angelo Ogbonna, Conor Coventry, Said Benrahma

Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Nayef Aguerd, Edson Alvarez, Tomas Soucek, James Ward-Prowse, Lucas Paqueta, Mohammed Kudus, Jarrod Bowen.

Goals: Mohammed Kudus 14 Edson Alvarez 42                .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Freiburg: Atubolu, Sidillia, Ginter, Gulde, Makengo (Kübler 74), Doan, Eggestein (Höler 56), Höfler, Grifo © (Weißhaupt 68), Gregoritsch (Adamu 56), Sallai (Röhl 46).

Subs not used: Müller, Jantunen, Rüdlin, Baur .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Joao Pinheiro.

Attendance: 48,876.

Man of the Match: Edson Alvarez.