West Ham made life difficult for themselves as they came from behind to beat Danish minnows Silkeborg 3-2 in the Europa Conference League.
David Moyes’ side were cruising for much of the game, but some sloppy play late on gave their opponents a sniff of a shock draw, with the Hammers eventually clinging on to maintain their 100% start to the group stages.
The hosts took a shock lead after just five minutes when Kasper Kusk was left unmarked on the edge of the area, and he beautifully slotted into the bottom corner after being picked from a left wing cross.
The jubilation inside the stadium did not last long though, with Manuel Lanzini equalising from the penalty spot shortly afterwards following a foul on Maxwel Cornet.
By the 25th minute, West Ham were into their stride and they took the lead when Gianluca Scamacca sent an absolute thunderbolt into the top corner from 20 yards.
That advantage was lucky to last though, with Nicklas Helenius heading home, only for the referee to award a very harsh foul on Alphonse Areola, before Craig Dawson made it 3-1 with a towering header from Aaron Cresswell’s corner.
The second half did not have quite the same fizz as the first, with the visitors looking comfortable and happy to let Silkeborg have plenty of the ball. Indeed, there was a three minute spell when the hosts passed the ball around, but it was mainly in front of their own 18-yard box, with the move eventually breaking down when Dawson stepped in to dispossess as some attacking intent was finally shown.
The Danes were gifted a way back into the game when Jarrod Bowen was dispossessed in his own half, leading to a rapid counter-attack that was rounded off by Soren Tengstedt, who fired home after an initial shot from Tonni Adamsen was blocked. Adamsen, on as a second half substitute, made a real impact and was unlucky not to grab an equaliser when Areola made a terrific save from his fierce shot late on.
TALKING POINT – WEST HAM LET OFF THE HOOK?
Many ex-professionals will tell you that goalkeepers get far too much protection in the modern game, and that certainly seemed the case for Areola in the first half of this game.
With the match precariously balanced at 2-1 to the visitors, the French international attempted to come off his line to claim a corner, but ran straight into an opposition player, who was making no attempt to block his path.
The referee blew his whistle immediately, quickly followed by Helenius nodding into the back of the empty net. It was a real let off for the Hammers, and who knows how the game would have ended up if the goal had been allowed to stand?
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Declan Rice (West Ham). It’s no coincidence that when the skipper was withdrawn, life became more difficult for West Ham as they started losing out on more midfield battles.
He had won three ground duals, as well as successfully completing 61 of his 64 passes, before being taken off on 63-minutes, at which point visitors were cruising through the game, meaning Moyes made a raft of substitutions to rest some weary legs.
But without the England international on the field, Silkeborg gained more control of the game and looked much more of a threat going forward, particularly gaining ground in the middle of the park where Rice had previously been.
SILKEBORG: Nicolai Larsen 6, Sonne 6, Salquist 5, Felix 6, Engel 6; Thordarson 5, Brink 5, Klynge 5; Tengstedt 6, Helenius 5, Kusk 7. Subs: Klitten 6, Jorgensen 6, Kaaland 6, Adamsen 7 Subs: Hedvall, Calisir, Ostrom, Busch, Oggesen, Mattsson, Dahl
WEST HAM: Areola 6; Coufal 7, Dawson 7, Kehrer 7, Cresswell 8; Cornet 6, Lanzini 7, Emerson 7; Paqueta 7, Scamacca 7. Subs: Soucek 6, Benrahma 6, Bowen 5, Fornals n/a, Coventry n/a Subs: Randolph, Fabianski, Zouma, Ogbonna, Downes, Antonio
6’ GOAL! SILKEBORG 1-0 WEST HAM (Kusk). Wow! What a start for the minnows! They take the lead. Kasper Kusk is left in acres of space, gets picked out by a perfect pass and beautifully finishes into the bottom corner.
13’ GOAL! SILKEBORG 1-1 WEST HAM (Lanzini). Cornet is pushed over in the box and the referee awards a penalty straight away. Lanzini slips when taking it, but still finds the bottom corner.
25’ GOAL! GOAL! SILKEBORG 1-2 WEST HAM (Scamacca). Oh my goodness! Pick that one out! Gianluca Scamacca fires West Ham in front with an absolute thunderbolt from 20-yards. The goalkeeper has no chance. That went past him like a rocket!
31’ GOAL RULED OUT! Silkeborg think they’ve equalised, but the referee has already blown for a foul on Alphonse Areola before Nicklas Helenius headed home. That was very harsh on the hosts
37’ GOAL! SILKEBORG 1-3 WEST HAM (Dawson). West Ham double their lead. Craig Dawson, making his first start of the season due to injury, heads home Cresswell’s ball at the near post.
75’ GOAL! SILKEBORG 2-3 WEST HAM (Tengstedt). Hello! Terrible play from West Ham, who give the ball away cheaply through Bowen. Silkeborg counter-attack and after Adamsen’s shot is blocked, Soren Tengstedt fires home. Game on.
81’ AREOLA SAVES. Oh, what a save that is! The goalkeeper brilliantly denies Adamsen, who was eying an equaliser after wiggling past two defenders