West Ham United remain top of UEFA Europa League Group H after they comprehensively beat Belgian side KRC Genk 3-0 in Stratford on Thursday night.
Only Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen retained their places from the victory at Everton four days earlier, as Alphonse Areola, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Mark Noble, Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini and Nikola Vlašić all came into the starting line-up. Tomáš Souček had made a quicker than expected recovery from the injury he sustained at Goodison Park and started again here. Youngsters Harrison Ashby and Dan Chesters were included amongst the substitutes.
The Irons applied the pressure in the opening stages but the visitors soon grew into the contest and thought they had grabbed the early advantage when Junya Ito set up Paul Onuachu and although he made a hash of his attempt, Theo Bongonda was in the right place to head past Areola but the home sides relief, VAR intervened and ruled the effort out for offside.
Ito was proving a constant threat early on as just four minutes later, the striker almost opened the scoring. He latched onto goalkeeper Maarten Vandevoordt’s long pass but thankfully for the hosts, Areola saw the danger and raced off his line to thwart the Japanese international.
It was now the turn of the visitors to dominate proceedings. A great team move involving Ito, Bongonda and Onuachu ended with the latter heading narrowly wide.
The East Londoners then had their own spell of pressure, as Souček met Rice’s cross with a header but his effort was comfortable for Vandevoordt to make the save.
The Irons then let a golden chance to go ahead pass them by when Lanzini and Johnson combined to good effect to set up Bowen but the former Hull City winger was wrongfooted and didn’t make the best of it.
Minutes later, Cresswell had a similar opportunity but again the chance was passed up.
Bowen then sent a corner over which Dawson headed over, having been under pressure from the visiting defence.
The Belgian side went close when Onuachu sent his own header narrowly over the crossbar, despite initially beating Areola to the ball.
The action was swinging from end to end by this point, before the Hammers were back in the ascendancy. Bowen saw his shot blocked and they were awarded a corner.
The corner resulted in some great play from the hosts, as Yarmolenko and Cresswell set up Bowen but he had his shot saved by Vandevoordt.
The home fans finally had something to cheer about when the deadlock was broken just before half-time. A defensive mixup from the visitors allowed Dawson to get the final touch and divert Cresswell’s cross past a helpless Vandevoordt.
The home side would have been pleased to have gone into the break with the advantage after a tough opening forty five minutes.
KRC Genk had a great chance to level matters moments after the teams had reemerged from the dressing rooms but luckily for the East Londoners, Kristian Thorstvedt’s effort took a deflection off Diop and fell nicely into the grateful grasp of Areola.
Twelve minutes after the break, the hosts went further ahead when Vlašić won a free-kick which Cresswell then sent into the box and the ball went into the back of the net via another deflection, this time from Diop which once again left Vandevoordt with no chance.
No sooner had the second goal gone in than the home support were celebrating a third.
Bowen finally got his name on the scoresheet. Lanzini had played him in after picking up the loose ball after Onuachu had lost possession and he sent a left-footed shot past Vandevoordt.
With the game now all but safe, Moyes decided to bring an early end to the game for both Rice and Cresswell with Sunday’s London derby against Tottenham Hotspur in mind, as Ryan Fredericks and Noble were brought into the action.
The visitors then tried to grab something from the game but Thorstvedt’s long-range effort failed to trouble Areola. Substitute Ike Ugbo also tried his luck but the Paris Saint-Germain loanee thwarted him.
It wasn’t just Areola that was denying KRC Genk a way back into this game, as both Diop and Dawson were also getting their bodies in the way.
Moyes made another double change on eighty three minutes, as Pablo Fornals and Saïd Benrahma replaced Vlašić and Bowen.
There was just enough time for Chesters to enter the fray, as Lanzini made way for the youngster.
The East Londoners meet the Belgians again on 4 November but before then, it’s the small matter of a London derby as Spurs visit Stratford in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.