Dominant Hammers see off challenge of Genk
West Ham United 3-0 KRC Genk
UEFA Europa League - Group H
Goals from Craig Dawson, Issa Diop and Jarrod Bowen saw West Ham United record a comfortable 3-0 win over Belgian side KRC Genk in the UEFA Europa League at London Stadium.
The result saw manager David Moyes' Irons become the first West Ham side to win their first three games, and keep three consecutive clean sheets, at the start of a European season proper.
As a result of their victory, West Ham move onto nine points - six clear of their three opposing sides in Group H, and just three away from securing a place in the next stage of the competition at the first time of asking.
David Moyes made six changes to his West Ham United team for the arrival of the Belgian Cup winners, with Declan Rice, who scored in both victories against Dinamo Zagreb and Rapid Vienna in the competition so far, once again at the heart of the home side’s midfield, alongside Tomáš Souček, who had recovered from needing stitches to his facial injury sustained at the weekend.
In contrast to West Ham's form, Genk, meanwhile, had struggled domestically prior to the game, sitting sixth in their league with just two wins from their previous six games.
True to the form book, it was home side West Ham who made the brighter start, switches of play to the willing full-backs of Ben Johnson and Aaron Cresswell providing their early avenue of attack.
But it was Genk who thought they had attained an early lead inside nine minutes. A burst down the right from Junya Ito allowed the No7 to slide the ball across the face of goal. Paul Onuachu made a mess of his finish but Theo Bongonda was on hand to head the ball over the line – only for VAR to confirm that Ito was offside in the initial phase.
And it was Ito who skirted the line once more four minutes later, racing onto a long boot forward from goalkeeper Marten Vandevoordt. West Ham ‘keeper Alphonse Areola – yet to be beaten as a Hammer – raced from his line and stood tall to block the Japanese winger’s prodded finish.
Ito was again involved in the build-up to Genk’s third opportunity as Bongonda centred for Onuachu to glance over the bar, but headed opportunities fell for the Irons as well inside the opening 20 minutes, Rice’s in-swinging cross finding Souček climbing at the back post and the Czech international forcing Vandevoordt into a decent save with a downwards header.
And the Hammers’ clearest chance of the opening period came after a delightful interchange between Manuel Lanzini and Johnson, who slid a low pull-back towards Bowen. The No20, unfortunately, kicked more air than ball with his less-favoured right foot, with Cresswell doing similar when the ball deflected back to the No3 inside the box.
Moments later, true to their track record under Moyes, West Ham threatened again from a set-piece – Bowen’s searching cross to the far post attacked fervently by Dawson, who could not angle his header correctly under pressure from two Genk defenders.
Up the other end, and blessed with the six-foot-six Onuachu leading the line, Genk proved they could also provide threat from corners, with the Nigerian – on eleven goals in 12 games prior to kick-off – nodding narrowly over the bar after beating Areola to a floated cross.
While not exerting quite as much control as they had done in their previous victories on the European stage, the Irons continued to probe in the first half without finding the required penetration, the lively Bowen seeing an effort blocked behind for a corner.
That was, seemingly at least, until the stroke of half-time, when some fast right-to-left passing football led to Andriy Yarmolenko sliding in Cresswell down the left channel. This time, Bowen was ahead of his man and made contact with the near post delivery, but his low shot was well kept out by Vandevoordt.
Then, moments later, the breakthrough – and for the second time in five days, a corner-kick converted by a centre-back.
Cresswell’s deserved assist finally arrived with a pinpoint out-swinger of a delivery which glanced off Dawson’s shoulder and looped up high towards goal. As the ball began to drop over the line, Genk captain Bryan Heynen could not leap high enough to prevent its path, and the lead belonged to the Irons.
The visitors could perhaps feel hard done by at half-time on the balance of play, and came close early in the second half when Kristian Thorstvedt’s low drive deflected off Diop but – crucially – kindly into Areola’s path.
Moments later, the Frenchman would find the back of the net – at the intended end!
After Nikola Vlašić had done well to forage down the left flank and win a free-kick, Cresswell whipped it in and – for the third Hammers goal in a row – a centre-back got on the end of a set-piece, the ball once again deflecting off Diop’s shoulder, clipping the underside of the bar – and finding the back of the net.
And the points were as good as West Ham’s a minute later when Bowen, whose industrious work in the No9 role had up to that point gone unrewarded, was found by Lanzini after Onuachu lost the ball in midfield.
The forward cut back onto his trusty left foot and struck a low shot which Vandevoordt will feel he ought to have saved – but one to the delighted of a raucous Claret and Blue Army, he didn’t, and West Ham were three to the good.
Moyes responded by introducing a raft of substitutes to retain the freshness of his squad – perhaps with Sunday’s home game against Tottenham Hotspur in mind – which saw right-back Ryan Fredericks and captain Mark Noble return from respective injuries.
Thorstvedt had a shot fly over the bar from 25 yards and Ito – who faded as the game wore on – provided a decent delivery for former Chelsea forward ike Ugbo to head over from close range.
But just as they had excelled at the other end of the pitch, Diop and Dawson were superb in the defensive challenge, the former throwing himself in front of a low Ito shot when it looked like the Irons might finally concede in the competition.
Second-half substitute Said Benrahma had a low effort blocked as the seconds ran down, but Genk's sting had well and truly evaporated by that point - the Hammers rediscovering the dominance which has defined their Europa League efforts thus far in the competition.
And there was still time for 19-year-old Dan Chesters to enjoy a night he would never forget, the Academy of Football product coming on for the closing stages to mark his first-team debut - a celebratory night all-round.
West Ham United: Areola, Johnson, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell (Fredericks 67), Rice (Noble 67), Souček, Yarmolenko, Lanzini (Chesters 88), Vlašić (Fornals 83), Bowen (Benrahma 83)
Subs: Fabianski (GK), Randolph (GK), Ashby, Masuaku, Zouma, Ogbonna
Goals: Dawson 45+1, Diop 57, Bowen 58
Genk: Vandevoordt, Preciado, Cuesta (Sadick 45), Lucumi, Arteaga, Thorstvedt (Toma 83), Hrošovský, Heynen, Bongonda (Trésor 73), Onuachu (Ugbo 73), Ito (Oyen 83)
Subs: Chambaere (GK), Leysen (GK), McKenzie, Geusens, Eiting, Paintsil, Németh
Referee: Donatas Rumšas (Lithuania)