West Ham United 4-0 AEK Larnaca (West Ham United won 6-0 on aggregate)
UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16 second leg, London Stadium, Thursday 16 March 2023, 8pm GMT
Jarrod Bowen became West Ham United’s record European goalscorer as David Moyes’ side secured their place in the UEFA Europa Conference League last-eight with a 4-0 victory over AEK Larnaca at London Stadium.
The Hammers held a two-goal advantage going into their round of 16 second-leg tie, and saw off their Cypriot opponents comfortably to reach a second consecutive European quarter-final.
Gianluca Scamacca opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the UECL campaign, before AEK were reduced to ten men by Gus’s sending-off just before half-time.
Bowen then took centre stage, scoring twice in a little over three minutes just after the break to take his European tally to eight, two more than Michail Antonio, Johnny Byrne and David Cross.
And the No20’s replacement Divin Mubama completed a near-perfect evening as he netted his first senior goal in Claret and Blue.
The Irons will now look forward to the quarter-final draw, which will take place at UEFA’s House of European Football in the Swiss town of Nyon on Friday afternoon.
AEK made three changes from the first leg, with experienced Spanish centre-back Mikel González returning as captain against his former Real Sociedad manager Moyes. The Scot himself made six changes from the trip to Cyprus, with Scamacca and Paquetá among those brought in.
It was Scamacca who fired the first shot across Larnaca’s bows, lashing an angled 25-yarder narrowly wide. AEK responded, with former Hungary international forward Nemanja Nikolić having a go from range himself, but his shot comfortably cleared Alphonse Areola’s crossbar.
Paquetá had the next opportunity on 19 minutes, collecting from Manuel Lanzini, cutting inside and seeing his strike hit former Fiorentina centre-back Nenad Tomović. Lanzini got his assist 90 seconds later, though, taking Pablo Fornals’ pass and finding Scamacca, whose low shot squirmed under goalkeeper Kenan Pirić and into the Cypriots’ net.
And the Italian beat Pirić again soon after when he slotted home Paquetá’s pass, but the assistant referee correctly flagged the No7 offside.
And exactly the same happened at the other end just after the half-hour mark when Nikolić shot past Areola, albeit it needed a check by Swiss VAR Fedayi San to confirm Aaron Cresswell had stepped up in time to catch the ex-Chicago Fire man.
Having had a let-off, West Ham reasserted themselves, with Jarrod Bowen firing wide and Fornals hitting the underside of the crossbar with a curling effort.
VAR San was involved again just before half-time, when he asked Bulgarian referee Georgi Kabakov to review his decision to book AEK midfielder Gus for a challenge on Fornals. Replays showed the Portuguese was high and late and the man in the middle changed his decision to a red card after a visit to the pitch-side monitor.
Amazingly, the No7 had been sent-off for a similar tackle in Larnaca’s home defeat by Apollon in the Cypriot First Division on Monday evening, and the Irons nearly benefitted immediately, but Pirić held Souček’s daisy cutter.
It took just 81 seconds of the second half for West Ham to double their lead against their depleted opponents. Sustained pressure ended with Scamacca’s drive being turned aside by Pirić, and Bowen raced in to convert with his right foot.
The goal made the England forward the Hammers’ all-time record leading European scorer with seven, and three minutes later it was eight when he fed Aaron Cresswell wide left, then superbly steered the full-back’s cross beyond the Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper with a looping header.
With the tie won, Moyes brought on Mubama, Maxwel Cornet and Danny Ings in a triple change, replacing his two goalscorers and Paquetá.
And Mubama was celebrating jubilantly eleven minutes later when he steered Souček’s headed from a Cresswell corner in from six yards with the outside of his boot.
Fresh from scoring in his eighth consecutive game and his 22nd of the season for West Ham at all levels, the 18-year-old was joined on the pitch by his regular U21 teammates Levi Laing – making his first-team debut – and Freddie Potts.
AEK gamely created a couple of chances of their own amid the carnage, but Areola was securely behind Nikos Englezou’s free-kick, Giorgos Naoum’s volley and Omri Altman’s bobbler.
And so it is that West Ham join Gent, Lech Poznań, Fiorentina, Basel, AZ Alkmaar, Nice and Anderlecht in the quarter-finals, where they will attempt to repeat last season’s Europa League heroics against Olympique Lyonnais and continue the quest for a second major European trophy.
West Ham United: Areola, Johnson, Zouma (Laing 68), Ogbonna ©, Cresswell, Souček (Potts 68), Paquetá (Cornet 54), Lanzini, Bowen (Mubama 54), Fornals, Scamacca (Ings 54)
Subs not used: Hegyi (GK), Anang (GK), Aguerd, Benrahma, Kehrer, Emerson, Rice
Goal: Scamacca 21, Bowen 47, 49, Mubama 65
AEK Larnaca: Pirić, Casas, Tomović, Gonzalez © (Christoforou 46), Englezou, Gus, Oier (Pons 66), Mamas, Jakoliš (Altman 66), Naoum (Faraj 81), Nikolić (Lopes 66)
Subs: Toumpas (GK), Stylianidis (GK), Tričkovski, Miličević, Rosales, H.Andreou
Sent-off: Gus 45
Referee: Georgi Kabakov (BUL)