Hammers defeat Rapid Vienna in home Europa League opener


West Ham United 2-0 Rapid Vienna
UEFA Europa League Group H

Goals from Declan Rice and Saïd Benrahma gave West Ham United a 2-0 victory over Rapid Vienna in their home UEFA Europa League Group H opener on Thursday night.

The Hammers extended their perfect start to life in Europe with the victory, building on their win in Zagreb with a second straight 2-0 success, with Rice on target in both matches.

It was Rice who opened the scoring in front of over 50,000 Hammers at London Stadium, touching home from close range after being teed up by Michail Antonio.

Rapid asked more questions of the hosts, who had been comfortable in their lead, after the interval and saw VAR intervene to rule out a penalty award 20 minutes from time, before Benrahma wrapped up the points in injury time.

Following a light and pyrotechnic show worthy of the occasion, the Hammers came out to a raucous atmosphere and so nearly made a dream start.

Seven minutes were on the clock when Aaron Cresswell delivered a free-kick from the left. Rice found himself in front of the near post, but got a deft flick on the ball with his head and was desperately unlucky to see it bounce off the base of the right-hand upright.

As the game settled down, it became clear that Rapid would be quite content to sit deep and allow the Hammers time on the ball.

West Ham were happy to be patient in their approach, although that patience could have been tested when they struck the woodwork for a second time 27 minutes in. This time Craig Dawson was the unfortunate Hammer, seeing his header from another Cresswell dead ball crash against the post.

Any disappointment quickly cleared though, as they had the lead just two minutes later. Andriy Yarmolenko got the move started, playing a diagonal ball into the box from the right, and Antonio took it down on his chest superbly, giving himself the time and space to cross low for Rice to tap home.

The Hammers remained in charge of the game, but went in at half-time knowing that the job was far from done yet.

Nikola Vlašić tried to give the Hammers some comfort at the start of the second half, but he didn’t really get hold of the shot from 20 yards and away goalkeeper Paul Gartier saved comfortably.

West Ham began to be pushed deeper by the Austrians as the second half wore on and there seemed to be an unwelcome twist to the tale 20 minutes from time when sub Marco Grüll darted into the box from the left and went to ground as he went past Ben Johnson.

Referee Tobias Stieler pointed to the spot, but was called over to check his pitchside monitor, and after a long look, could see that Johnson had not fouled his man, who had tripped over his own feet.

It was a warning that the Hammers needed to heed though, and Jarrod Bowen could have wrapped it up nine minutes from the end when Pablo Fornals’ beautiful pass played him through. Gartier was on the No20 quickly, but Bowen still managed to shift it away from his grasp. As the ball ran away from him, though, he lifted the shot over the top.

No matter, as deep into stoppage time, Bowen played a ball square across the box for Benrahma to stun, nudge onto his right foot and roll into the net.

West Ham United: Areola, Johnson, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell, Noble (Souček 62), Rice, Yarmolenko (Fornals 76), Benrahma, Vlašić (Lanzini 62), Antonio (Bowen 62)
Subs: Fabiański (GK), Randolph (GK), Alese, Baptiste, Masuaku, Zouma, Ogbonna, Král

Goals: Rice 29, Benrahma 90+4

Booked: Diop

Rapid Vienna: Gartier, Aiwu, Greiml (Stojković 62), Wimmer, Ullmann (Auer 74), Petrović (Lubicic 81), Grahovac, Arase, Khasmüllner, Fountas (Grüll 62), Kara (Kitagawa 62)
Subs: Unger (GK), Hedl (GK), Bello, Schick, Hofmann

Booked: Grahovac, Greiml

Referee: Tobias Stieler (Germany)

Attendance: 50,004