FK TSC 0-1 West Ham United
UEFA Europa League Group A matchday five, TSC Arena, Bačka Topola, Thursday 30 November 2023, 6.45pm CET (5.45pm GMT)
Tomáš Souček struck in the final minute to give West Ham United a hard-earned 1-0 victory at FK TSC Bačka Topola on Thursday night.
The Irons looked set to be held to a frustrating goalless draw by their stubborn hosts until Souček popped up with the vital goal right at the end – netting for a fifth game in succession for club and country in the process.
Souček’s goal was especially important given Freiburg’s 5-0 win at Olympiacos which threatened to see them leapfrog the Irons at the top of UEFA Europa League Group A ahead of their meeting at London Stadium in a fortnight.
Now the Hammers will go into the group finale knowing they have already progressed to the knockout stages of this competition, and a point would see them directly through to the round of 16.
West Ham United’s first ever competitive game in Serbia began at a slow pace, with neither side able to stamp their authority on the contest in the opening stages.
It was the home side who had the first effort on goal, when Uroš Milovanović’s flicked effort was saved down low by Łukasz Fabiański.
TSC were enjoying the better of the limited openings and just past the half-hour an errant square pass by Aaron Cresswell was seized upon by Aleksandar Ćirković 25 yards from goal. He teed up a shot on his right foot, but thankfully for the Hammers, the effort lacked the power to beat Fabiański, who gathered at the second attempt.
West Ham’s first shot in anger followed a minute later, as Tomáš S,ouček sprayed a fine diagonal pass out to Saïd Benrahma out on the right flank. He cut inside to the penalty area, but shot straight at goalkeeper Veljko Ilić.
Right on half-time, Souček rose highest to meet a James Ward-Prowse free-kick, but was caught between going for goal and nodding back across, and the ball squirmed wide.
In truth, there had been little to warm the spectators inside a chilly TSC Arena before the break, and both teams found it similarly heavy going at the start of the second period.
On the hour Nikola Kuveljić had a low drive comfortably fielded by Fabiański and Hammers boss David Moyes then turned to Maxwel Cornet and Danny Ings from the bench as he sought the breakthrough.
Lucas Paquetá’s venomous effort was deflected over the top of the crossbar on 72 minutes, while the home side defended a string of Ward-Prowse corners well.
It looked as though the Serbian outfit had done enough to earn a point, but in the final minute of the 90 Cornet swung over a cross from the right for that man Souček to convert at the far post.
For the third game in succession the Czech had struck right at the end to give the Irons a vital victory – this time one which ensures they go into the final group game still top of Group A.
FK TSC Bačka Topola: Ilić, Antonić ©, Čalušić, Stojić, Petrović, Cvetković, Radin (Vulić 77), Kuveljić (Vlalukin 77), Ćirković (Sós 86), Milovanović (Pantović 77), Đakovac
Subs: Simić (GK), Jorgić (GK), Mirchevski, Krstić, Rakonjac
Booked: Petrović, Čalušić
West Ham United: Fabiański, Johnson (Kehrer 79), Mavropanos, Aguerd, Cresswell (Emerson 79), Fornals, Ward-Prowse, Souček, Paquetá, Benrahma (Cornet 67), Mubama (Ings 67)
Subs: Areola (GK), Anang (GK), Scarles, Zouma, Ogbonna, Orford, Coventry, Chesters
Goal: Souček 89
Booked: Fornals, Emerson
Referee: Allard Lindhout (Netherlands)