After the first game of the UEFA Europa League last season, West Ham United were top of Group H, following a 2-0 win over GNK Dinamo Zagreb and they have achieved the same feat this campaign, as they have gone to the summit of Group B after starting their UEFA Europa Conference League campaign with a 3-1 victory over Romanian Liga I side FCSB on Thursday night.
David Moyes made seven changes to the side that were unfortunate not to leave Stamford Bridge with a point five days ago. Alphonse Areola replaced Łukasz Fabiański in goal, while Angelo Ogbonna returned to the defence. Flynn Downes was handed his full debut, while Saïd Benrahma, Manuel Lanzini, Maxwel Cornet and Gianluca Scamacca all came into the starting line-up.
The Scotsman again named two goalkeepers on the bench, as both Darren Randolph and youngster Krisztián Hegyi took their places. There was also a mixture of youth and experience amongst the substitutes, as Craig Dawson, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Michail Antonio, Lucas Paquetá and Kurt Zouma were all available to Moyes, while Development Squad players Divin Mubama, Connor Coventry, Regan Clayton and Freddie Potts were given an experience with the first-team.
Due to the sudden passing of the Queen before the match, a minutes silence was held. Then the encounter got underway and although West Ham applied the early pressure, they just couldn’t make it count. The visitors went close to opening the scoring but fortunately, Areola showed quick reactions to keep Andrea Compagno out.
The hosts then launched an attack but unfortunately Scamacca, Cornet and Benrahma all saw their efforts deflect wide of the target.
There was then a lengthy break in the half, as Cornet needed treatment after an accidental collision with Scamacca. Thankfully though, the former Burnley man was able to continue.
New club Captain Declan Rice also tried his luck but sent his effort wide. However the East Londoners were made to pay as FCSB made the breakthrough on thirty four minutes. Andrei Cordea finished off what was a clever move from the Romanian outfit, leaving Areola helpless.
The hosts had further chances to level matters as the first-half drew to a close with Scamacca also sending two headears wide. The Italian striker was through on goal again just minutes later but he was unable to put his third attempt away after being set up by Downes.
When referee Benoît Bastien blew his whistle for the break, Moyes knew that he had to change something in order to find a way back into the contest.
The Irons’ boss turned to his bench during the break and made three changes with Antonio, Bowen and Paquetá coming on to replace Benrahma, Scamacca and Lanzini.
The changes were certainly proving influential at the start of the second-half as the hosts finally found a foothold on the game and on sixty nine minutes, the majority inside the stadium were cheering.
Cornet was fouled and Bastien awarded West Ham a penalty. Bowen thumped the ball past visiting goalkeeper Ștefan Târnovanu, meaning the Hammers could now focus on trying to turn the game around.
From then on, it was one-way traffic!!! Bowen and Antonio both tried their luck but the scores were still level.
On sixty eight minutes, Moyes made his fourth substitution of the evening, as Fornals was introduced in place of Cornet, who had suffered another injury and this time, couldn’t continue.
Eventually, the superiority from the Premier League side told and they went in front on seventy four minutes as Emmerson Palmieri was in the right place to beat Târnovanu and claim his first goal for the club.
You could tell that the home side had found their rhythm by this point and they almost extended their advantage. Unfortunately though, Paquetá’s effort flashed across the face of the goal. Minutes later, another opportunity was created when Bowen and Fornals tested Târnovanu but they couldn’t beat him. Finally, it was left to Antonio to have a go but he made a hash of his attempt.
The former Nottingham Forest winger made amends in the final minute of normal time and they did go further in front. He evaded the attentions of Joonas Tamm to add his name to the scoresheet.
Moyes made use of another change before the game ended, as Craig Dawson entered the fray for his first appearance of the season, with Ogbonna being withdrawn.
It may have taken them a while but at least the East Londoners finally confirmed a second home win.
With this weekend’s clash against Newcastle United having now been postponed, they can fully prepare for the next match in Group B, which is scheduled to take place next Thursday away at Danish side Silkeborg IF.