West Ham United 2-1 RSC Anderlecht
UEFA Europa Conference League Group B, London Stadium, Thursday 13 October
West Ham United secured qualification from UEFA Europa Conference League Group B thanks to a 2-1 win over RSC Anderlecht at London Stadium.
A fourth straight win in Group B was set up by a dominant first-half performance in which the Irons struck twice in the first 30 minutes.
A delicious Saïd Benrahma free-kick brought the opener, before Jarrod Bowen thrashed in the Hammers’ second from the edge of the area.
While Anderlecht struck a late penalty through Sebastiano Esposito, the Hammers battled to a deserved victory. David Moyes’ outfit now have two group stage matches remaining against Silkeborg IF and FSCB, where they need just a solitary point to secure top spot in Group B and secure direct progression to the Round of 16.
It would be a clinical first half that saw the Hammers secure qualification to the Europa Conference League knockouts with those two group matches still to be played.
On a cold night at London Stadium, the warning signs were there for the visitors when Lucas Paquetá, who led the Hammers' line-up supported by Bowen and Benrahma, saw his early strike from distance blocked, while skipper for the night Aaron Cresswell struck a free-kick narrowly over the bar.
As the first half unfolded, it looked to be a case of when, not if the Hammers would find the net. The chances fell to those in Claret & Blue frequently, before Moyes’ outfit took the lead with 14 minutes played.
A few neat exchanges between Lucas Paquetá and Benrahma saw a free-kick awarded on the edge of the area by French Referee Willy Delajod. The Hammers No22 then stepped up for the resulting free-kick and curled his effort up and over the wall and into the bottom corner – it left Anderlecht goalkeeper Hendrick van Crombrugge, who had desperately dived to his right, well-beaten, such was the accuracy and power of the Algerian’s strike from 20 yards out.
And while Anderlecht forward Fábio Silva tested Alphonse Areola from distance, a second Hammers’ goal followed just 16 minutes after the first of the evening. Emerson Palmieri darted down the wing and crossed for Bowen, who shifted the ball to his left foot and found the top corner emphatically with his fifth goal in all competitions this campaign. His third strike in his last four matches was his record-equalling sixth European goal for the Club.
Areola then tipped an Esposito effort around the post to ensure a perfect first half for the Hammers, although a 2-0 lead at the break was dampened slightly by the loss of the injured Angelo Ogbonna, who was replaced by Craig Dawson on 22 minutes.
After the break, Emerson had two chances to net a third for the Irons. First, the Italy wing-back almost converted a Vladimír Coufal cross, but his shot clipped the roof of the net on its way over. After a well-worked corner, Emerson then saw his strike from distance fade narrowly wide.
There were further chances for Moyes’ outfit too. Pablo Fornals, who replaced Lucas Paquetá at the break, might have found the net. A flowing Hammers move found Benrahma, but the Hammers No8 saw his effort blocked as he ran onto a square pass from the Algerian.
And with the work done in the first 45 minutes, the game looked set to peter to its conclusion until Anderlecht were awarded a penalty with 89 minutes played after Ben Johnson was adjudged to have fouled Esposito.
The Anderlecht No70 may have then converted from 12 yards, but the Hammers stood firm through six minutes of stoppage time to hold onto victory. Most importantly, back-to-back wins over Anderlecht in the Europa Conference League and West Ham’s sixth win in Europe this season ultimately secured Moyes’ wish for post-Christmas European football, with just two-thirds of the group-stage played.
West Ham United: Areola, Coufal, Johnson, Ogbonna (Dawson 22 (Souček 74)), Cresswell © (Rice 63) Emerson, Lanzini, Downes, Lucas Paquetá (Fornals 45), Benrahma, Bowen (Scamacca 64)
Subs not used: Randolph (GK), Hegyi (GK), Potts, Scarles, Forson, Coventry
Goals: Benrahma 14 Bowen 30
Booked: Lucas Paquetá, Downes, Johnson
Anderlecht: Van Crombrugge ©, Debast, Delcroix (Hoedt 79), N’Diaye, Murillo, Arnstad, Diawara (Sadiki 59), Verschaeren (Vertonghen 67), Amuzu (Stroeykens 66), Esposito, Silva (Stassin 79)
Subs not used: Verbruggen (GK), Coosemans (GK), Raman, Ishaq, Ait El Hadj, Sardella, Leoni
Goal: Esposito pen 89
Referee: Willy Delajod (FRA)