West Ham entered the Europa League quarter-finals with a game to spare after a 2-0 win over Rapid Wien when first-half goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Mark Noble wrapped up Group H first place for David Moyes’ team.
It was an important victory for the Hammers, as they are now directly on to the knockout phase, where they avoid a play-off in February against a team that drops out of the Champions League. Moyes was even able to make eight changes on his side, rest people like Declan Rice and Michail Antonio, and still comfortably get the job done.
“Job done, yes,” Moyes said. “We did a professional job tonight and throughout the group game we did a great job.
“It’s a great honor for the players for the way they have done the job for a group that is relatively new in Europe. It’s something I have not taken in yet. I knew we could handle the task, but I think , that we did not play as well tonight as we did, but we did enough to get through.It’s probably a good sign that I’m not quite happy with the way we played, but we have won relatively comfortably.
With Vienna in a new coronavirus lockdown, the match was played in an empty stadium. Rapid were unable to encourage their noisy fans to lift them, and in the end, West Ham simply had too much class.
They got off to an almost perfect start as Arthur Masuaku drove a low cross into the box for the sliding Jarrod Bowen to poke just past after five minutes. Nikola Vlasic and Yarmolenko also both shot narrowly into a bright opening from the visitors.
The only moment of mild alarm came when Kelvin Arase weaved himself into a shooting position, even though his effort was saved by backup goalkeeper Alphonse Areola on his way to a fifth clean sheet in six appearances.
West Ham’s dominance finally told six minutes before the break when Vlasic hit a cross from the left and Yarmolenko was left with a simple header back across the goal. It was a first Hammers goal since January for the Ukrainian national team player, who has only played 52 minutes in the Premier League this season.
Yarmolenko then had a big hand in the second goal in the first half’s break time after he turned the Rapid captain, Maximilian Hofmann, into the area and was put down. Noble, the West Ham captain and a man who is clearly enjoying this European adventure in his 18th and final season at the club, made no mistake from the spot.
After the break, Bowen’s quick feet in the area fooled three defenders, but his shot was straight at Rapid goalkeeper Paul Gartler. Gartler also denied Tomas Soucek before Bowen’s follow-up was blocked on the line.
Teenager striker Sonny Perkins came in as a replacement for his Hammers debut and almost marked it with a goal when he met Vladimir Coufal’s cross with a fine header, but Gartler made a fantastic reflex save and West Ham had to settle for two.