Hammers Hide As Fortounis Inspires European Win

After an away win over SC Freiburg earlier this month, together with the fact that Olympiacos were yet to win in the UEFA Europa League this season, all statistics were pointing towards West Ham United’s seventeen game unbeaten run continuing. However, the Hammers suffered only their second group stage defeat, losing 2-1 in Piraeus on Thursday.

Łukasz Fabiański was ill overnight on Wednesday, meaning Alphonse Areola retained his place from the 4-1 defeat to Aston Villa five days earlier but David Moyes did make seven changes to his side. Thilo Kehrer, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Mohammed Kudus, Pablo Fornals, Saïd Benrahma and Danny Ings all came into the starting lineup. Angelo Ogbonna was named Captain for the evening.

Kurt Zouma, Nayef Aguerd, Edson Álvarez, Lucas Paquetá, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio dropped to the bench, while Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Maxwel Cornet and Divin Mubama were also in the matchday squad.

It was a crowd made up exclusively of home supporters in Freiburg just over three weeks ago and although 1600 Irons’ fans were in attendance here, the noise levels from the majority inside the stadium needed some matching!!!

The home side were dominant and it was clear that West Ham hadn’t fully recovered from Sunday’s loss at Villa Park, as they again struggled to find any real rhythm here. The home side were putting them under pressure right from the first whistle.

To be fair though, Moyes’ men did keep their shape in the opening stages, until their resistance was finally broken on thirty three minutes. Olympiacos are currently top of their league but hadn’t won a game in this competition for eleven matches so it was a surprise when Captain Kostas Fortounis put them in front when he evaded the attentions of both Fornals and James Ward-Prowse to beat Areola.

The visitors wanted to find a way back into the game but to the honest, the way that they were playing seemed to suggest that they weren’t going to achieve it!!!

In fact, they were further behind before the break. Ogbonna tried to block a cross into the box from Rodinei Marcelo de Almeida and in so doing, he only managed to divert the ball past Areola.

Ward-Prowse tried one of his infamous free kicks but it ended up wide of the target. Then, Ings tried his luck but on both occasions, he failed to pull a goal back. He sent in a shot, before heading over the bar.

The East Londoners have produced some tremendous comebacks in recent years but they would have to conjure up something very special if they were going to turn this one around!!!

In the immediate aftermath of those changes, Antonio and Paquetá failed to inspire and instead were booked by referee Andris Treimanis, along with Emmerson Palmieri and Sotiris Alexandropoulos.

The pressure from the hosts showed no signs of abating, as Alexandropoulos fired wide. Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Daniel Podence then tested Areola but fortunately, the Frenchman was equal to his attempt. The home side’s latest spell ended when Jackson Porozo thought he’d extended their advantage but luckily, his header went the wrong side of the post.

Moyes made another double change with eighteen minutes of normal time to play, as both Ward-Prowse and Kudus made way for Edson Álvarez and Cornet.

The Hammers had scored in every game so far this season and were keen to keep that proud record going. In the last ten minutes, they finally showed some urgency and finished off with a goal when Paquetá got his name on the scoresheet. The Brazilian benefited when he picked up the pieces from Quini’s clearance and sent an unstoppable volley past a helpless Alexandros Paschalakis.

Now only one goal behind, the Irons were given hope when eight minutes of stoppage time were signalled. Instead, the hosts went close to making the scoreline even more uncomfortable but fortunately, Fortounis missed the target on this occasion.

Moyes is likely to make changes to his side this Sunday, as they are back in action on home soil when Everton are the visitors. The Scotsman will definitely be without Palmieri for the encounter against the Toffees, as the defender has to serve a one-match ban.