- West Ham on the brink of knockout rounds with nine points from nine in group
- Defenders Craig Dawson and Issa Diop on the scoresheet from Aaron Cresswell deliveries
- David Moyes’ team face Tottenham in Premier League London derby next
Just how far could West Ham United go in Europe this season? The drama of the Europa League knockout stages is within their grasp already and, on another jubilant night under the management of David Moyes, it felt like anything could be possible for a group of players who will cause genuine difficulties for any opponent they face in this competition.
There are few teams in England who can cope with West Ham’s strength from set-pieces, and the same will be true of the majority of sides in Europe. There is height and power across the West Ham lineup, especially through the spine, and with Aaron Creswell providing the deliveries from wide there will always be danger for opposition defences.
Poor Genk, admittedly not the most formidable team in this season’s Europa League, could do nothing to stop West Ham’s defensive titans from connecting with these crosses. First it was Craig Dawson, attacking Cresswell’s corner to give West Ham the lead, and then it was Issa Diop doing the same to double it.
Since the start of last season, no Premier League player has assisted more goals from dead-ball situations than Cresswell. And no Premier League defender has scored more goals in all competitions this year than Dawson, who has struck five times in 2021.
Such statistics only tell part of the story, but they underline what can be seen so clearly with the naked eye: when West Ham have free-kicks and corners, their opponents have problems. “It may be more effective in European football,” said Moyes of his team’s set-piece prowess.
All this is before one considers the other attacking options in this team, with Jarrod Bowen adding the third here at the end of a rapid attack. Flexibility, versatility, strength and speed: it is not hard to see why West Ham are doing so well in Europe this season, with this their third win from three matches so far.
“If we can stay strong and keep the confidence, then I think teams will be fearing us,” said Bowen. “We could be the team to look out for.”
Results elsewhere mean that West Ham now sit six points clear at the top of their group. Their record so far reads three games played, three games won, seven goals scored and none conceded. The last team to win their opening three Europa League group games without letting in a single goal was Sevilla in 2019/20, who went on to lift the trophy.
If that is a good sign for West Ham, then so is the fact that they won so comfortably here without the rested Michail Antonio, their primary goalscorer. Bowen filled in as the central striker, with new signing Nikola Vlasic impressing behind him, and there was even time for Daniel Chesters, a teenage academy graduate, to make his debut at the end.
“I am not going to take anything for granted,” said Moyes. “I said I want to be in Europe after Christmas. That is my plan for this year and the players have done a brilliant job. We have got to keep working to get those extra points to make sure we qualify.”
The Europa League has occasionally been an afterthought for English teams, with the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur instead dreaming of playing in the Champions League, but West Ham are fully embracing the challenge this season. There was another light show before kick-off and the stadium was rocking when Bowen converted the third, just seconds after Diop’s header had made it 2-0.
Given how the match ended, it was strange to think that West Ham had actually started slowly. Genk were dangerous on the break in the early stages, with Theo Bongonda only denied an opener by the tightest of offside calls. Their gangly striker Paul Onuachu also had an opportunity, heading just wide with a looping effort.
On such fine margins do European games swing, and it would have felt gruelling for the visitors when Dawson converted a similar opportunity a few moments later. Once again it was a Cresswell delivery which caused chaos in the Genk box, and West Ham repeated the trick a few minutes after the break when Diop crashed his header in off the bar.
Just seconds later, straight from the kick-off, the home side were in again. Bowen seized on the ball, with space to run into and an opportunity to cut inside onto his left. The subsequent finish was not his most accurate effort, but it was too powerful for Genk goalkeeper Maarten Vandevoordt.
That was job done and game won for West Ham, who cruised through the remainder of the night with minimal fuss. There are tougher nights to come, but on this form they will take some stopping on their increasingly thrilling European adventure.
West Ham vs Genk, as it happened
FT: West Ham 3 Genk 0
David Moyes’ team on to nine points from nine in their Europa League group and they look to be heading for the knockout rounds. The scoreline flatters them a touch tonight but they made the most of set-pieces which is their calling card. Genk fans stay behind to clap their team, who played some good stuff but were a bit callow were it counts.
Tresor has been very lively since coming on as a sub for Genk and his shot deflects wide after a probing dribble into the box. The corner is cleared and that should be that.
Another good piece of combination play from Genk but Ugbo cannot turn Oyen’s cross towards goal. They probably deserve a goal for their efforts tonight. Chesters is now on for his debut in European football for West Ham.
West Ham youngster Daniel Chesters is about to come on as their fifth sub. Benrahma overruns the ball dribbling into midfield but it matters not for the home team.
Another West Ham change: Benrahma comes on for Bowen. Fornals has also replaced Vlasic. Soucek with a nice pass around the corner into Lanzini but Benrahma’s shot in the area was blocked. Can West Ham add another goal?
Genk pour forward but they pick the wrong pass left to Ugbo rather right to Ito and it narrows the angle for him. Genk have looked a better side than Rapid Vienna did when they played West Ham, despite conceding three goals.
A Genk cross bounces off Noble for a corner but it is straight down the throat of Areola. West Ham seeing this game out with the minimum of fuss.
Genk making a couple of changes, one of whom is former Chelsea youth player and Londoner Ike Ugbo. He played alongside Declan Rice as a teenager as they came through the ranks at Chelsea.
West Ham looking very comfortable, the air has gone out of the game which suits them just fine. A reminder for West Ham fans: they need to finish top of the group to qualify automatically for the last-16, or else face a play-off game, but they are well on their way to doing that.
Declan Rice is coming off, handing the armband on to Mark Noble. Aaron Cresswell joins him on the bench, replaced by Fredericks. Two of West Ham’s key men get to put their feet up and start getting ready for Spurs on Sunday.
Onuachu trying to twist and turn in the box, but he could not get the ball under his spell. Craig Dawson is down with a slight problem, clutching his ankle. His back up and ready to play on.
West Ham have more than one foot in the knockout rounds now. Yarmolenko picks out Vlasic with a pull-back but his shot was blocked, Genk need to get a hold of themselves or else this could get messy.
GOOOOOAAAALLL! Two in two minutes
That is game over, Genk have folded. They were caught on the ball in their own half which gave Bowen the space to drive into the area, and his shot squeezed past the goalkeeper Vandevoordt who really should have done better. West Ham heading for nine points from nine.
GOOOOAAAALLL! Diop heads in West Ham’s second
West Ham have scored another set-piece goal, Preciado pays the price for giving away a cheap free-kick around the box. Good delivery for Cresswell and there was Diop to head in off the end of the bar.
Vlasic bundled over close to the box when he was going nowhere, another chance for West Ham to swing a set piece in towards Diop, Dawson and Soucek.
Good play from Cresswell down the left again exchanging passes with Vlasic and West Ham a corner. From the clearance, Yarmolenko tries one of his budget Arjen Robben shots with his left peg but it flies high, wide and handsome.
That was another warning side as Thorstvedt’s shot almost swerved past Areola but the goalkeeper claimed. David Moyes will want West Ham to get more of a grip of this game and finish the contest with a second goal.
Cresswell tries to clip one down the line for Bowen but it runs out of space and runs for a goal kick. A few fans a bit slow getting back to their seats. Genk stroking the ball around in midfield but not really threatening West Ham.
West Ham need to see a bit more from Vlasic in the second period. Cresswell has been very good down the left. Diop gives the ball away in his own half but Genk cannot make anything of it.
HT: West Ham 1 Genk 0
The away side hade performed well and had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside, but West Ham have scored another set-piece goal to give them the lead. Heading for nine points from nine.
GOOOOAAAALLL! West Ham have the breakthrough thanks to Dawson
The defender got up to win what was not the cleanest header but it looped up and over the goalkeeper and past the desperate efforts of Heynen on the line to keep it out.
Some later pressure from West Ham who have a corner. Two minutes of added time to play.
Genk have been extremely competitive in this half, not giving an inch. West Ham are missing Fornals’ influence and of course the ability of Antonio to move centre-backs around and clear space. That was a good move though, finding Cresswell on the left as a spare man, good delivery and the ball bounced off Lucumi straight to the goalkeeper.
West Ham patient in their play around the box, trying to find a gap in this stubborn Genk defence. Bowen’s shot is deflected behind for a corner, and once again it is Rice to the rescue to win a tackle that stops a Genk counter attack.
Genk have another corner after good work down the left from Bongonda. Taken short so they can change the angle, and they stand one up to Onuachu at the back post who heads inches wide! Areola with a Superman impression in the six-yard box, got nowhere near it. Another let off for West Ham.
Genk have looked organised and cohesive so far, they will be pleased with their first half efforts. It was a good job Onuachu messed the pass up because Ito was away but Rice was there to cut the pass out.
West Ham push Genk back and Cresswell’s cross is turned behind by Arteaga for a corner. It was aimed towards Dawson at the back post but it was always a little high and he could not keep it down.
Onuachu making a nuisance of himself again, but his touch was loose and a combination of Dawson and Areola squeeze it out for a corner. Cuesta had an attempted deflected into the goalkeeper’s arms but the flag was off anyway for offside.
Better from West Ham. Lanzini slips a pass through to Johnson on the overlap from right-back but Bowen completely missed his shot with his weaker right foot after it was pulled back. That was slicker though.
Onuachu bundles Diop over who was always going to get there first. Genk dropping off into a 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 without the ball. Soucek with a nice one-two around the edge of the box with Bowen but he flashed the ball across to nobody.
Rice clips a cross onto the head of his midfield partner Soucek at the back post but he does not get enough power on it to beat Vandevoordt in the goal. Preciado is down and receiving treatment after banging into the back of Dawson.
Lanzini found time and space to stand a cross up from the right but well cleared by Genk. Ito turns and spray a pass left, but Onuachu’s header was always rising with the cross too high for him. The Belgian side are playing some decent stuff going forward.
Genk have players on the shoulder of the West Ham defence who are threatening with pace in behind. It is a slower backline with Dawson in for Zouma tonight. West Ham not really playing with enough zip so far.
Creswell has a cross charged down and West Ham have a corner. Genk clear their lines though, with Onuachu back defending in his own box. Then another defensive scare for West Ham, ad Genk ping a ball over the top for Bongonda but Areola charged out and just around got there first outside his own box.
Genk thought they had taken the lead but the flag goes up for offside. Ito with a very good run in behind down the right but he may have been a fraction offside. He squared for Onuachu who missed badly but Thorstvedt was there to head home. A let off for the home team.
Onuachu battling with Soucek in midfield. Johnson tries to cushion a pass first time on the volley but it runs out for a goal kick. Genk give the ball away a couple of times in their own half with Rice clearing up. No real chances for West Ham so far, a bit of a sleepy start.
West Ham fans getting some practice in before Sunday with a cry of “stand up if hate Tottenham”, who were beaten in Arnhem earlier this evening. They did get to rest key players though. The Genk striker Onuachu is incredibly tall, a real throwback of a target man centre-forward.
Lucimi with an early foul on Bowen close to the touchline, bundling the forward over and standing on the back of thigh. West Ham have an early chance to swing the ball into the box from a wide free-kick. Bowen stands up to whip the ball in, but it doesn’t get it past the near post.
The players are out
A full crowd at the London Stadium for another European night. There are three South Americans in the Genk defence: Preciado, Cuesta and Lucumi.
West Ham team news
West Ham boss David Moyes made six changes for the Europa League visit of Belgian side Genk.
Goalkeeper Alphonse Arbeola, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Andriy Yarmolenko, Nicola Vlasic and Manuel Lanzini all came in.
Tomas Soucek, who needed plastic surgery on his lip after Saturday’s win at Everton, kept his place along with Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen, Aaron Cresswell and Ben Johnson.
Can West Ham continue their perfect European record?
West Ham look right at home in continental competition and have the chance to make it three wins from three in their Europa League group against Belgian side Genk tonight. Victory at the London Stadium would put them on the verge of the knockout stages, which begin in the last-16 in February.
David Moyes’ team do have a London derby against rivals Tottenham on Sunday though – who picked a shadow squad for their Conference League trip to Holland – so there is an argument to rest players. Declan Rice played a full 90 minutes against Rapid Vienna with Michail Antonio coming off just after an hour in their last European game, but they still managed to win at Leeds that weekend. Tomas Soucek is available after a facial injury sustained at Everton but West Ham are without his compatriots Vladimir Coufal and Alex Kral.
Genk, who are currently sixth in Belgium with five wins from 11 league games, will be big underdogs tonight. However, former Holland midfielder and manager John Van Den Brom insists he is more concerned about how his players perform rather than who they are up against.
“I’m never worried about anything in football. As a player I wasn’t and as a coach as well,” he said.
“The most important thing is what we are going to do as a team, against a very good team like West Ham.
“I think West Ham play with a lot of confidence. They had a good result at the weekend and have had good results in the Europa League.
“I don’t know how they are going to play, in Europe sometimes they start with other players, but they are still good players.
“It’s good for them, but I always look to myself and to my team. I see a lot of possibilities and opportunities to play a good game tomorrow, and that’s what we have to do.
“We have to take care of them, especially in defence. But I’m a Dutch guy, you know, I’m always thinking about when we have the ball and if we can use possession to create chances also.”
Full team news on the way shortly.