Jarrod Bowen: I'm buzzing with my first Europa League goal for West Ham United
Jarrod Bowen was all smiles after his first European goal helped West Ham United maintain their perfect start in the UEFA Europa League.
The Hammers made it three Group H wins out of three with a 3-0 victory over Belgian Cup winners KRC Genk at London Stadium, where Bowen completed the scoring with a superb individual run and finish.
The goal added to Craig Dawson’s header on the stroke of half-time and arrived less than a minute after Issa Diop had headed West Ham’s second from Aaron Cresswell’s free-kick, and David Moyes’ side in total control.
Speaking to BT Sport, Bowen was delighted to have found the net in continental competition and happy to play his part as the Londoners continued their bright start to the 2021/22 campaign.
It is now eight victories and just two defeats – both to last-minute goals – in 12 matches in all competitions now for the Hammers, who won at Everton in the Premier League last weekend and welcome local rivals Tottenham Hotspur to London Stadium this Sunday afternoon.
I remember scoring my first goal [for Hereford] against Alfreton in 2016/17. Now to score in the Europa League is a dream. I'm loving every minute
"It's good," he smiled. "I should have had one in the first half. Even the one I scored I probably didn't finish it right but I said before the game I bet I'll score when I scuff it! But if you don't shoot you don't score. I'm buzzing with my first Europa League goal.
"It means everything, looking back and playing non-league... I remember scoring my first goal [for Hereford] against Alfreton in 2016/17. Now to score in the Europa League is a dream. I'm loving every minute."
With Michail Antonio being rested, Bowen played up front, with support from Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini and Nikola Vlasic, and the No20 believes he is suited to a centre-forward role with his pace and ability to use both feet, keeping opposition defenders off-balance.
"Up front I feel like you can run in behind and play in both sides," he confirmed. "You can go down the left and the right or drop off.
"I feel like I'm improving in that position. Being a target man is not my game at all but I think wherever I just love playing.
"My strengths are running in behind. I have a turn of pace so you have to play to your strengths. In the first half Andriy Yarmolenko came into that pocked and left space in behind on the right so I think we got down there a lot. It was just adapting my game to where I was playing."
While Bowen was one of five players to keep their place following Sunday's 1-0 win at Everton in the Premier League, the six who came in also did their jobs for the team, as did substitutes Mark Noble and 19-year-old debutant Dan Chesters.
For the 24-year-old, the fact West Ham are fighting on four fronts this season means every player knows he will have an opportunity to impress manager Moyes and stake his claim for regular football.
"It's unreal," he continued. "In every competition, if the team changes everyone knows what the standard is and what the manager expects.
"You can see in the performance tonight it was a convincing 3-0 victory but we have a big squad and a whole season ahead. Everyone is ready to play their part.
"You can see the players who don't play as much come in like tonight and do really well."
West Ham now sit six points clear of Croatians Dinamo Zagreb, Austrian side Rapid Vienna and Genk, with three ties to play - away to Genk and Rapid in November, then home to Dinamo in early December.
With only the group winners qualifying directly for the round of 16, and the runners-up needing to play an extra round against a UEFA Champions League opponent, Bowen knows the importance of picking up at least one more win and finishing first.
"The main thing is topping the group," he confirmed. "The home games is vitally important. We want to win away too. If we can stay strong, keep the confidence then I think teams will be fearing us.
"We could be the team to look out for. We're only a few games away from a big cup run.
"We beat Everton on the weekend and we have built on that again. We'll keep pushing. We're winning games so that makes the players keep wanting to put the performances in."