Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 West Ham United
UEFA Europa League Group H
Goals from Michail Antonio and Declan Rice gave West Ham United the perfect start to their UEFA Europa League campaign at Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday night.
The Hammers claimed the points with a strike in each half, as Antonio took advantage of an error from home defender Kévin Théophile-Catherine to open the scoring, before Declan Rice’s solo run made the second.
West Ham were well in control for much of the contest, quelling Dinamo’s threat as they searched for a route back into the contest in the second period and a second straight clean sheet ensured the three points would be theirs.
West Ham may be relative novices when it comes to European competition – this was their first tie, excluding qualifiers, since 2006 – but they began the came in composed fashion.
Indeed, they got on the ball early and forced four corners before the game was even ten minutes old.
Their reward came in the shape of a gift-wrapped goal in the 21st minute. Former Cardiff City defender Théophile-Catherine will not want to watch it again, as his back pass was left too short for goalkeeper Dominik Livaković, allowing Antonio to nip in, beat him to the ball and poke into the unguarded net.
It nearly got even better three minutes later when Ryan Fredericks made a forceful run down the right channel and found himself one-on-one with Livaković. The Dinamo goalkeeper did well to close the angles down though and Fredericks could not force the ball beyond him.
Nikola Vlašić, making his full debut for the Club back in his homeland, had a close range volley blocked as the half drew to a close and there could be no doubt that the Hammers deserved their interval lead.
Dinamo responded strongly at the start of the second half and Bruno Petković gave the Hammers a 47th minute scare when he shot wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the box.
It was only a momentary scare, though, as Rice doubled the lead just three minutes later. It was a goal all of the captain’s making, too, as he made an interception on halfway, showed strength to hold off the challenge and simply take off.
Nobody could catch him as the No41 strode clear in the left hand channel and he ended the run by slipping the ball through Livaković’s legs to make it 2-0. The perfect way to make his 150th appearance in Claret & Blue.
To Dinamo’s credit, they kept pushing after Rice’s strike, and Luka Ivanušec’s shot took a huge deflection off Issa Diop, leaving Łukasz Fabianski stranded, and he was grateful to see the ball clip the outside of the post on its way wide.
The same player drilled wide of the near post after making his way into the box on the hour, but as time wore on, David Moyes’ men did a good job of drawing the home side’s sting and re-establishing conrrol.
In fact, Fabiański wasn’t called on to make a save, as debutant Kurt Zouma and Issa Diop kept him well protected, and the Hammers ensured their travelling fans would head back to London very happy.