Hammers Complete Denmark Demolition Job
West Ham United had a 3-1 advantage from the first-leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League play-off against Danish Superliga side Viborg FF and they cemented their place in the group stage by scoring another three goals at Energi Viborg Arena to win the tie 6-1 on aggregate.
David Moyes was back in the dugout for this game, following his suspension and he made six changes to the team that lost at home to Brighton and Hove Albion five days earlier. Vladimír Coufal missed the game due to concussion, meaning Ben Johnson filled in for him, while Aaron Cresswell returned from his own suspension and took the Captain’s armband.
Angelo Ogbonna also came into the defence, with Gianluca Scamacca, Pablo Fornals and Maxwel Cornet also included. Alphonse Areola started in goal ahead of Łukasz Fabiański, while Saïd Benrahma was handed a start.
Jarrod Bowen, Kurt Zouma, Michail Antonio and Flynn Downes joined Darren Randolph on the bench, while Divin Mubama, Krisztián Hegyi, Connor Coventry, Pierre Ekwah Elimby, Armstrong Oko-Flex and Kamarai Swyer also took their places in the matchday squad.
The home side started the match looking to add another goal which might have turned the tie in their favour but the Hammers stuck to their task well, as Johnson was on hand to deal with an early cross from Jay-Roy Grot.
To be fair to the visitors though, once they got into their stride, there was no stopping them.
At the other end, Scamacca was keen to add to his goal in the first-leg a week ago and he got himself into a great position to connect with a cross but unfortunately, he missed the target with a header.
The Italian striker was in no mood to stop there however, as minutes later he went close again but this time, he was kept out by home goalkeeper Lucas Lund Pedersen.
He wasn’t to be denied a third time though, as on twenty two minutes, he finally put his side in front when a great team move involving Fornals, Johnson and Tomáš Souček ended with the record summer signing getting the final touch.
Just before the break, the home side had a chance to level the scores on the night but fortunately for the East Londoners, Areola dealt with an effort from Grot, before making an even better save from the rebound to deny Justin Lonwijk.
The Irons may have gone into the break, having extended the aggregate advantage however, they effectively sealed the tie with fifty one minutes on the clock when Scamacca and Cornet combined to good effect and found Benrahma, who had the time and space to finish past Lund Pedersen.
West Ham piled on the pressure and just after the hour, the travelling support were celebrating again as Cresswell’s cross was headed down by Thilo Kehrer and although Lund Pedersen dealt with his effort, Souček was on hand to knock the ball home.
Shortly after, the Hammers would have made the scoreline even more comfortable but Cornet somehow missed and instead, cleared the crossbar with an effort after being well set up by Benrahma.
On sixty eight minutes, Moyes knew that there was no way back for the hosts by this point, with this in mind, he decided to make his first three changes, as Downes, Coventry and Antonio were all introduced in place of Souček, Benrahma and Scamacca.
Zouma was brought on to replace the skipper with nine minutes of normal time to play, while seconds later Lanzini made way for Oko-Flex.
The home side were wasteful with the efforts that came their way, before referee Harold Lechner blew the final whistle meaning European football in Stratford is secured for another season.
Attention now turns back to the Premier League and picking up their first three points of the season. They will attempt to achieve this when they travel to Villa Park to take on Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon.
In other news, although the fixture dates and times are still to be confirmed, the East Londoners now know who they will face in the group stage and Moyes’ men, who are top seeds in Group B will come up against FCSB of Romania, RSC Anderlecht from Belgium, before they once again face Danish opponents in the shape of Silkeborg IF.