West Ham United had already wrapped up Group H with victory over SK Rapid Vienna in the last European encounter but unfortunately, they ended the group stage with disappointment, losing 1-0 at home to GNK Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday night.
David Moyes named a team which included a combination of experience and youngsters. Mark Noble captained a side which featured names such as Harrison Ashby, Ajibola Alese, Sonny Perkins, Jamal Baptiste and Emmanuel Longelo. One other notable change saw Alex Král finally make his home debut after joining the club on Deadline Day.
Unlike in the game against the Austrians last month, the “new manager bounce worked for the visitors and made it a bad start to the match for the hosts. They controlled the very early stages and went ahead as early as the third minute, Mislav Oršić beat goalkeeper Alphonse Areola with a powerful shot. Still, at least the Hammers had eighty seven minutes in order to equalise!!!
Visiting skipper Arijan Ademi went close with a header of his own on thirty two minutes but failed to even test the Frenchman, who is on loan from Paris Saint-Germain.
Luka Ivanušec was inches away from making it harder for the inexperienced home starting line-up, as just four minutes later, he tried his luck with a long-range effort but fortunately, Areola saved his team by tipping the attempt onto the bar. The same player tried again from the resulting corner but this chance went wide of the post.
The game was swinging from end to end by this point and Ashby took a leaf out of Arthur Masuaku’s book and went for the spectacular but unfortunately, it didn’t come off for the youngster, as the strike landed on the top of the net.
West Ham’s best chance of the first-half fell to Pablo Fornals but the Spaniard’s goal-bound effort was well blocked.
When referee Maurizio Mariani blew the whistle for the break, the Irons were behind for only the second time on their European adventure but on the last occasion, against KRC Genk, they managed to turn the game around in the second forty five minutes and they were hoping to do the same here.
Moyes made a change during the break, as Fornals was replaced by Saïd Benrahma.
It was a fairly uneventful start to the second-half but Oršić was still proving a threat. He nearly doubled the advantage for the visitors with a strike from outside the penalty area but Areola kept it out.
Up the other end, Benrahma went close with a free-kick but visiting stopper Dominik Livaković prevented the Algerians’ effort from beating him.
The game was looking like heading for defeat late on but it was still a proud night for the youngsters that had been given the chance by Moyes and two more were introduced within seconds of each other. Both Freddie Potts and Keenan Forson entered the fray for fellow debutant Perkins and experienced forward Andriy Yarmolenko.
The was one more chance for the East Londoners to grab a point from this game and it was a fortunate one. The ball came to Alese on the chest from a right-wing cross but the defender didn’t get any contact on it and instead, the goalkeeper was able to easily deal with it.
After three minutes of stoppage time were played, the final whistle blew, meaning that GNK Dinamo Zagreb join West Ham in going through to the next stage.
Before they find out who they will come up against in Monday’s draw, the East Londoners are looking for three more points when they face Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday afternoon.