West Ham United 3-1 Viborg FF
UEFA Europa Conference League play-off round first leg, London Stadium, Thursday 25 August 2022
Gianluca Scamacca struck on his first start as West Ham United beat Viborg FF 3-1 in the first-leg of our UEFA Europa Conference League play-off.
After the Italy striker expertly headed in his first goal in Claret and Blue, Jarrod Bowen doubled the lead shortly after the hour mark.
At one point, a strike from Jacob Bonde teased a possible comeback for the Danish side, however, Michail Antonio restored the Hammers' two-goal cushion with just over ten minutes to play.
West Ham will now head to Denmark for the second leg on August 25 with a two-goal lead to protect to reach the Europa Conference League group stage.
Angelo Ogbonna returned to the Hammers line-up for the first time since November 2021, following his recovery from a serious knee injury, but it was his compatriot who stole the headlines in east London, as it took just 23 minutes for the new signing to prise the opening goal.
After Ben Johnson, Conor Coventry and Vladimír Coufal all combined, Maxwel Cornet, also making his first start, was found free to charge down the left with ease.
He then twisted and turned, before he picked out Scamacca with an inch-perfect cross. The Italy striker was a grateful recipient, rising highest to tower over Žan Zaletel and head the ball into the bottom corner.
That goal had been coming for Scamacca, who was the focal point to a hatful of Hammers attacks in the first half. With five minutes on the clock, he had an early sight of goal, but his shot hit Jarrod Bowen, whose following effort rebounded off both posts, although the Hammers No20 was later flagged offside.
Scamacca might have had a second before the break when he cut inside and fired a powerful effort from the edge of the area, only to be deterred by a diving save from Viborg keeper Lucas Lund.
In response, the visitors' pressure saw Alphonse Areola make two impressive saves either side of the break, first to deter a well-struck effort from Jan Žambůrek, before Grot again tested the French keeper. Areola though stood tall to deny the visiting attacker with his left leg.
At the other end, Harrison Ashby almost doubled the lead in the second half when his fierce strike from long distance forced another save from Lund, who stretched to tip the ball over the bar.
But a crucial second goal came when Bowen found space on the edge of the area, and made no mistake, finishing in his trademark clinical fashion. The England international struck into the bottom corner from range, leaving Lund well beaten by the accuracy of the strike from 25 yards.
Viborg did pull one back with twenty minutes to go. The Hammers were caught napping as Bonde rose above Vladimír Coufal and headed home.
And, the visitors then pushed for an equaliser, with Areola again showing his class, as a strong palm sent a shot from Nils Mortimer, a former Barcelona youth player, over the woodwork.
It would take the introduction of a handful of substitutes to see the Hammers over the line at the London Stadium, with new-signing Thilo Kehrer, making his debut from the bench, Saïd Benrahma, Flynn Downes, and Antonio all introduced.
The substitutes were then clinical when they got the chance too, adding a third in the 78th minute when - with a neat burst of pace - Benrahma skipped past Anton Gaaei and squared the ball to Antonio, who gratefully tapped home from close range.
Cornet almost added a fourth in the closing moments with a teriffic volleyed attempt, as West Ham fought off the late pressure from the visitors to secure a crucial two-goal lead, which they will hope to defend in the second leg next week.
West Ham United: Areola, Coufal, Johnson, Ogbonna © (Kehrer 66), Ashby, Souček, Coventry (Downes 84), Cornet, Lanzini (Fornals 45), Bowen (Benrahma 66), Scamacca (Antonio 66)
Subs not used: Randolph (GK), Trott (GK), Baptiste, Zouma, Ekwah, Chesters, Okoflex
Goals: Scamacca 23 Bowen 64 Antonio 78
Viborg FF: Lund, Anyembe (Gaaei 34) Zaletel, Bürgy, Sørensen, Grønning ©, Žambůrek (Berger 87), Leemans (Søndergaard 66), Bonde (87), Grot, Lonwijk (Mortimer 66)
Subs not used: Killerich (GK), Lauritsen
Goal: Bonde 69
Referee: Marco Di Bello