Hammers Bounce Back In Europe

It has been quite eventful in the last eight days for West Ham United. They beat Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, then suffered a narrow defeat at Brentford in the Premier League and on Thursday night continued their progress in the UEFA Europa League by beating Greek side Olympiacos 1-0 to remain top of Group A.

David Moyes made four changes to the team that lost 3-2 to the Bees at The Gtech Community Stadium, as Lucas Paquetá and Edson Álvarez were back from suspension, while Jarrod Bowen led the line. This meant that Tomáš Souček and Michail Antonio dropped to the bench, while Łukasz Fabiański replaced Alphonse Areola in goal. The Frenchman provided cover from the bench and alongside him was youngster Joseph Anang.

Kurt Zouma had recovered from the injury that forced him out of the match against Thomas Frank’s men but he was back in the matchday squad here.

It was fair to say that the Hammers weren’t at their best in Piraeus two weeks ago so they obviously were keen to try and get their revenge in Stratford.

The pre-match light show wasn’t as impressive as the one that was put on before kick-off against the Gunners last week but nevertheless, it was still a good introduction to what hopefully would be another memorable night under the lights.

The visitors were set up so that if a mistake was made, they could pounce on it quickly but West Ham were determined not to let lightning strike twice and wanted to make an early breakthrough themselves.

In contrast to their previous meeting, Alexandros Paschalakis was in the thick of the action far more than Fabiański. Saïd Benrahma was desperate to get on the scoresheet after he was denied one at his former club five days earlier but he was thwarted on two separate occasions by the visiting stopper.

The East Londoners piled on the pressure as Bowen, Mohammed Kudus and Nayef Aguerd all tried their luck but just couldn’t get past a resilient defence. Moroccan defender Aguerd even had two efforts but didn’t open the scoring.

Although the encounter was still goalless when referee Matej Jug blew the half-time whistle, the Irons needed the first goal but amongst the home support, I bet they still had memories of what happened a fortnight ago and were hoping that history wasn’t going to repeat itself.

When the teams reemerged from the dressing rooms, Moyes’ men were still trying their hardest to go ahead. Benrahma had another go at goal but his effort again went wide, while James Ward-Prowse also tried his luck but was unable to add to his two goals he has already scored since moving to the club from Southampton. That being said, he did get another assist when Paquetá, just as he did on 26 October, finally made the breakthrough with seventy three minutes gone. He sent the ball beyond Paschalakis and into the back of the net to the delight of the majority inside the stadium!!!

The linesman originally flagged for offside but it was referred to VAR but after a lengthy check, the decision went in favour of the Hammers. Cue celebration again!!!

As the game entered its final ten minutes, Moyes made his first change with Álvarez making way for Souček and just four minutes later, Maxwel Cornet took the place of Benrahma.

Mady Camara gave the hosts a slight scare, as he hit the post with his attempt, before Rodinei Marcelo de Almeida tried to equalise but to be fair, it was well wide of Fabiański’s goal.

Both managers made substitutions in the last minute of normal time with the Hammers’ boss bringing on Divin Mubama for Kudus, while the visitors introduced Pep Biel to take the place of Santiago Hezze.

Five minutes of additional time were signalled before the East Londoners were able to celebrate a vital win. Could that be a sign of things to come? We will find out when Nottingham Forest arrive here on Sunday afternoon.