Hammers secure first leg advantage

West Ham United get their Europa League campaign off to a comfortable 3-0 win
A brace from man-of-the-match Diafra Sakho and a James Tomkins header rounded off a convincing, if unspectacular match.  

On a humid evening in east London the Hammers were well in control for the majority of the game, however it took 40 minutes to convert their dominance into goals. In fact, it was visitors, FC Lusitans, which had the first chance of the game as Jose Romero tried his luck from the edge of the box. 

In a rather sluggish opening, the Hammers best chances came down the left through Matt Jarvis, whose pace and direct running led to several half chances. 

In Slaven Bilic’s first game as West Ham manager, the Hammers named three debutants. New signing Darren Randolph started in goal and was largely untroubled, while Academy graduates Lewis Page and Reece Oxford made the step up from the Development Squad to make their senior debuts. 

At just 16 years and 198 days, Oxford became the youngest West Ham player ever, playing in central midfield alongside Diego Poyet. After a few initial nervous touches, the England U17 captain grew into the game.  

As the temperature began to finally cool down, the match heated up as hefty challenges flew in. Into the book went young Oxford, although it appeared as though the Andorrans were making the most of it. 

The Irons continued to pile on the pressure, launching a series of balls into the box yet they struggled to find either Diafra Sakho or Mauro Zarate. 

The deadlock was eventually breached five minutes from the break as Mauro Zarate, the Hammers brightest player in the first half, burst forward, beating two men before chipping an inviting cross for Diafra Sakho to head home from close range. 

A full house at the Boleyn Ground cheered with a mixture of delight and relief as the first chorus of ‘Diafra Sakho, he scores when he wants!’ rang around the stadium. 

No sooner had two additional minutes been added when the Hammers doubled their lead through last season’s top goalscorer. 

Morgan Amalfitano combined with livewire Zarate with a delicate one-two to give the Frenchmen the freedom of the penalty area. He could have shot himself, yet he unselfishly pulled it back for Sakho who rolled it home with consummate ease. 

The half time whistle was greeted with a rousing cheer as the Hammers were in firm control of the tie. A minutes’ applause to mark a year since former Ladies’ player Katie Sheppard tragically died was impeccably observed.  

Knowing they had to change things round to keep their dream of progressing alive, Lusitans made two changes, Alfi Conteh and Edu Moya came on in place of San Nicolas and Aguilar.  

Yet the Hammers kept the pressure up as Lewis Page swung in a wonderful cross which Sakho could not quite connect to. Seconds later Amaliftano went close to sealing the victory, first seeing an effort saved well by goalkeeper Geraldo Rubio before trying his luck from 40 yards out. Rubio again was on hand to tip the midfielder’s effort over. 

The chances kept falling for the hosts, Oxford drilled a thirty effort that fell agonizingly wide of the post. 

The Hammers third came courtesy of captain James Tomkins. On his first start since recovering from injury, the 26-year-old nodded home Jarvis’s dinked cross. 

With a comfortable cushion established, Westley brought on Josh Cullen who crashed a shot against the bar, making his senior debut, while Elliot Lee replaced Sakho. Both substitutes went close to extending the lead however Rubio was doing his best, single-handedly at time, to limit the damage.   

Westley’s final change of the evening was to award Djair Parfitt-Williams, another highly rated Academy prospect, his debut, replacing Zarate who departed to a standing ovation. 

In the final exchanges, the Hammers could, and really should, have extended their lead. Tomkins and Burke both went close from set pieces while Elliot Lee twisted and turned majestically, almost teeing up Parfitt-Williams for what would have been a dream debut. However the tally stuck at three. 

West Ham United: Randolph, Tomkins ©, Jarvis, Zarate (Parfitt-Williams 73), Sakho (Lee 62), O’Brien (Cullen 60), Amalfitano, Poyet, Burke, Oxford, Page
Substitutes: Spiegel (GK), Westley, Knoyle, Nasha

Goals: Sakho 40, 45, Tomkins 57

Bookings: Oxford

FC Lusitans: Rubio, Crespo, Moi, Peter, Romero, Reis (c), Aguilar (Conteh 45), Molina, Nicolas (Moya 45), Franclim (Sonajee 54), Maciel
Substitutes: Pires, Lima, Fernandes, Benitez (GK) 

Bookings: Franclim, Aguilar, Sonajee