Declan Rice: We’re still learning in Europe



Declan Rice believes Thursday night’s 2-2 draw at Genk will be a useful learning experience in West Ham United’s UEFA Europa League campaign.

The Hammers had to battle back from a slow start – one which saw them fall behind to Joseph Paintsil’s early goal – but having done than and taken a second half lead thanks to Saïd Benrahma’s double, they were ultimately disappointed to only come away with a point.

Genk levelled it up late on thanks to Tomáš Souček’s unfortunate own goal and Rice says the 90 minutes, in which the Hammers switched from a back five to four mid game, will serve them well in the long run.

“It was a disappointing finish,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game and they’d be better than they were in the first game. 

“They had to come out and give it everything in front of their fans and it was a real end-to-end game – enjoyable to play in but frustrating to give away that goal at the end,

“In the first 20 minutes we were poor and couldn’t really get to grips with the formation and the way they were playing but as soon as we made that tactical switch to a four it changed and our game improved.

“We brought Manu in to give us an extra midfielder and we had more of the ball and created more chances.

“We maybe could have scored one or two in the first half, then in the second half there were so many chances that we could have scored again.

“We’re still learning, it’s our first time in Europe and we have to find different ways to play against different opposition.”

I’m always on at Saïd to keep doing what he’s doing on the pitch – keep expressing himself and keep having the fun that he has

Despite losing the lead with just three minutes to play, the Hammers are still on the cusp of sealing their place in the knockout stages and Rice was delighted to see Benrahma make his impact with the two goals.

“It feels good to be that close to qualifying,” he added. “We still have two tough games left, we have to go to Vienna and play Zagreb at home, but we want to finish top. We don’t want to come second in the group, we want to finish top and proceed to the next round.

“I’ve been with Saïd for over a year now and I know what he can do. I’m always on at him to keep doing what he’s doing on the pitch – keep expressing himself and keep having the fun that he has.

:Tonight you can see the fun he had, he bailed us out with his two goals and he’s an unbelievable player.”

The England midfielder was also delighted to see his boss David Moyes bring up 1,000 games in management in Genk, although he wanted all three points as reward.

“We all signed a shirt for him, it’s a fantastic achievement,” he added. |I was speaking to him yesterday about it and he said he played 600 games as a player and now 1,000 as a manager, so I said: ‘Are you not stressed?!’

“He’s a great guy and to get to 1,000 games is unbelievable for any manager and we’re just disappointed we coiuldn’t get the win for him tonight.”