Thursday night’s win against SC Freiburg in the UEFA Europa League was not only West Ham United’s first ever victory in Germany but, that achievement also meant that they have now surpassed the European record set by both Don Revie’s Leeds United and Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham Hotspur sides and gone seventeen games unbeaten after David Moyes led them to a 2-1 win.
Only Vladimír Coufal, Nayef Aguerd, Edson Álvarez, James Ward-Prowse, Lucas Paquetá and Jarrod Bowen retained their places from Saturday’s comfortable triumph over newly-promoted Sheffield United. Paquetá was making his 50th appearance for the club.
Łukasz Fabiański returned to goal and was named Captain for the evening, while Konstantinos Mavropanos, Thilo Kehrer, Pablo Fornals and Mohammed Kudus all came into the starting line-up.
Joseph Anang and Alphonse Areola were both on the bench, which also included youngsters Connor Coventry and Divin Mubama.
UEFA had imposed a ban which meant that the ever-loyal West Ham fan base weren’t in attendance but the team wanted to make sure that they returned to East London with three points. They certainly started well, as Kudus looked to create an opening early on however, he was prevented from doing so by a well- timed challenge from Lukas Kübler.
Their next move led to them going in front with only eight minutes gone. Great team play involving Kudus, Coufal and Bowen resulted in the former Hull City winger picking out the Brazilian, who managed to jump above Matthias Ginter and head past goalkeeper Noah Atubolu.
The home side almost gifted their opponents another goal when Kudus tried his luck against Atubolu. He couldn’t hold the Ghanaian international’s effort however, the 21-year-old was to breathe a sigh of relief, as the ball somehow hit the post.
West Ham were really into their rhythm by this point and thought they had gone further ahead when Paquetá found the net again but unfortunately, the celebrations were short lived when the linesman raised his flag for offside.
The only attempt that the home side managed in the first-half failed to trouble Fabiański, as the Pole held Roland Sallai’s cross after Aguerd dealt with the danger, following a promising move from Kübler.
The Hammers might well have extended their advantage but Atubolu was in the way of an effort from Ward-Prowse.
Referee Mohammed Al-Hakim brought the first-half to a close and, given that this was probably the hardest match in the group, the visitors were coping admirably with the test that they were faced with.
The hosts made a first change during the break with Ritsu Doan being introduced for Junior Adamu.
Within minutes of the action restarting, the substitution had made the desired impact, as SC Freiburg eventually equalised. Fabiański made two saves but he was unable to prevent Sallai’s attempt from crossing the line.
The East Londoners were fortunate not to find themselves behind minutes later when Kiliann Sildillia was lurking at the far post but to the relief of the visitors, his header came back off the crossbar, before Lucas Höler picked up possession but miscued when well placed.
Having been so comfortable and looking like they could score every time that they ventured forward, Moyes’ men were suddenly on the back foot. On sixty five minutes, Bowen nearly finished off a promising move when he was on the end of a cross from Kudus. However, the Hammers were still in with a chance of creating something as it was blocked and a corner was awarded.
It was time for Ward-Prowse to once again deliver and he didn’t disappoint. The set-piece was met by Aguerd and without anyone near him, he steered the ball beyond Atubolu.
Six minutes later, West Ham made their first changes as Emmerson Palmieri and Tomáš Souček were introduced for Kehrer and Fornals.
Paquetá was having a great game and his next contribution was to play Kudus back in. The summer recruit had a chance with seventy nine minutes gone but unfortunately, it went narrowly wide.
The visitors shuffled their pack again with ten minutes of normal time to play as Saïd Benrahma entered the fray for Kudus.
Paquetá was still orchestrating matters as he then found Bowen in space. I’m sure everyone watching was hoping for another “Prague” moment but this time, it didn’t materialise, with the winger instead placing his effort inches wide.
The midfielder was finally withdrawn as Mubama took his place, while Ward-Prowse made way for Danny Ings.
It’s been a good week for the Irons so far and three points against Newcastle United on Sunday would top things off well, going into the international break.