West Ham secured top spot in their Europa League group with a game to spare after a comfortable 2-0 victory over Rapid Vienna on Thursday night.
Andriy Yarmolenko put the Hammers ahead with his first goal of the season, before Mark Noble doubled the lead from the penalty spot in first half stoppage time.
The game was played behind closed doors because of renewed Covid restrictions in force in Austria and the atmosphere was unsurprisingly very flat as a result. The knock-on impact from that was that it was easy for both sides to lose intensity in their play and at times the first half verged on boring.
Even the opening goal was understated when it arrived, possibly because of the lack of noise in the stadium, with Yarmolenko free in the penalty area and nodding in quite easily from Nikola Vlasic’s lofted cross from the left. It also sparked more life into David Moyes’ team.
Yarmolenko then played a major role in the second West Ham goal not long after, clipped in the box after getting in front of Rapid defender Maximilian Hofmann. Noble confidently stepped up on his return to the side and converted high to the goalkeeper’s left.
The second half was West Ham’s to lose. Rapid offered very little in the way of threat throughout, with numerous off-target efforts in the closing stages the closest they really came.
It could have been 3-0 on the hour mark when Jarrod Bowen sent a close-range effort goalward, only to see it blocked on the line and cleared. He couldn’t quite believe it hadn’t gone in. 17-year-old debutant Sonny Perkins also went close, drawing a top reflex save out of Rapid’s Paul Gartler.
Alphonse Areola (GK) – 6/10 – In for Lukasz Fabianski but mostly a spectator other than a few straightforward saves.
Vladimir Coufal (RB) – 6/10 – This game was always going to be more about getting forward than defending for him.
Craig Dawson (CB) – 6/10 – Didn’t have to face a direct threat. Comfortable in possession.
Issa Diop (CB) – 6/10 – Similar story to his partner. Will face tougher foes.
Arthur Masuaku (LB) – 7/10 – Covered plenty of ground on the left flank. Won the ball back often and snuffed out attacks.
Mark Noble (CM) – 8/10 – Doubled the lead in the first half from the penalty spot. Looked good despite a relative lack of chances this season.
Tomas Soucek (CM) – 6/10 – Probably could have scored at one stage in the second half. Taken off with the job done 65 minutes in.
Manuel Lanzini (AM) – 6/10 – Decent on the ball, rarely gave it away.
Andriy Yarmolenko (RW) – 7/10 – Hadn’t really done a great deal until he ghosted in from the back post to head the Hammers in front. Won the penalty in first half stoppage time soon after.
Jarrod Bowen (ST) – 6/10 – Tasked with leading the nine as a ‘false nine’. Had an effort cleared off the line on the hour mark.
Nikola Vlasic (LW) – 6/10 – Nice cross from the left to set up Yarmolenko.
Said Benrahma (ST) – 7/10 – Brought some renewed energy in the second half. Initially played through the middle and then shifted left.
Alex Kral (CM) – 6/10 – Given just under half an hour to get more vital minutes under his belt. Can be satisfied with his performance.
Pablo Fornals (AM) – 6/10 – Like for like for Lanzini in the ‘number 10’ role.
Ryan Fredericks (LB) – 6/10
Sonny Perkins (ST) – 7/10 – Senior debut for the 17-year-old from Hackney. Decent movement and forced a brilliant save within seconds of coming on.