Jarrod Bowen rounds off West Ham’s comprehensive victory over Genk
Last modified on Thu 21 Oct 2021 23.55 BST
It says much for David Moyes’s coaching that a heavily rotated West Ham were able to maintain their tactical discipline, hold their nerve and withstand some difficult early moments before using their set piece prowess to cruise to another emphatic victory in the Europa League.
Ultimately West Ham triumphed because they had far too much substance and intensity for Genk, who were dangerous in attack but utterly hopeless at defending crosses. Aaron Cresswell’s deliveries caused havoc in the away defence and although the game was in the balance before Craig Dawson opened the scoring just before half-time, there was no doubt that Moyes’s tough, efficient and skilful side deserved to win.
It was a powerful, resilient performance from West Ham, who refused to lose their shape when they were under pressure during a tricky opening period. They gradually imposed their will on their Belgian opponents, who had chances before falling behind, and were comfortable in the end, edging closer to a spot in the last 16 after rising six points above Dinamo Zagreb at the top of Group H. “There were lots of good things for us,” Moyes said. “I want us to be in Europe after Christmas.”
Belief is coursing through West Ham, who made their superiority count with further goals from Issa Diop and Jarrod Bowen in the second half. Genk could only wish for such conviction. They were lively in the final third, using their wingers to good effect early on, but their defence was an accident waiting to happen and their neat attacking patterns would have counted for nothing had Bowen not produced a comical miss in the 26th minute, missing his kick after fine full-back play from Ben Johnson on the right.
Bowen’s air shot summed up the uncertainty that hung over West Ham during the first half. They looked a little thrown together after making five changes from Sunday’s win over Everton and could not have complained if they had fallen behind, particularly when the flag went up for offside against Junya Ito after the winger’s foray down the right ended with Théo Bongonda heading in after nine minutes.
West Ham, who have been fined £50,000 after crowd trouble marred last month’s home win over Rapid Vienna, were cut open too easily. Ito was causing problems and there was another warning for the hosts when they were caught out by a long pass from Genk’s goalkeeper, Maarten Vandervoort. Alphonse Areola had to be alert as Diop and Dawson dithered in front of him, racing out to tackle Bongonda.
That was not the end of it as far as Genk were concerned. They continued to probe and almost went ahead when Areola misjudged a high cross, only for Paul Onuachu’s header to drop just wide.
West Ham, who went close when Declan Rice’s cross set up Thomas Soucek for a header that Vandervoort clawed away, had to sharpen up. They were not convincing without the rested Michail Antonio leading the line. Bowen was a lightweight presence through the middle in the first half, Andriy Yarmolenko overcomplicated things on the right and Nikola Vlasic was quiet on the left, though there was a moment of promise when the Croatian bent a shot wide early on.
Nonetheless there was always a sense that Genk, who have struggled to defend set pieces this season, would not keep a clean sheet. They were fearful of West Ham’s aerial power and they eventually cracked, giving Dawson too much room to head Cresswell’s corner high into the net.
Moyes must have hoped that the goal would help his side play with more freedom. Instead the better football came from Genk at the start of the second half, a deft move ending with Kristian Thorstvedt seeing a deflected shot saved by Areola. The dangerous midfielder, whose father, Erik, once played in goal for Tottenham, knew that it was a good chance.
West Ham soon made Genk pay for their profligacy. Again they profited from a set piece, Cresswell’s free-kick from the left finding Belgian defence in total disarray. This time Diop rose above Onuachu – all 6ft 7in of him – and the defender’s header bounced in off the underside of the bar.
Two goals down, Genk completely fell apart. They have been in poor form of late, dropping to sixth place in Belgium, and they gave up after West Ham’s second. They could not match West Ham’s hunger and they conceded again shortly before the hour, Jhon Lucumí far too cumbersome in the centre as Bowen swerved into space from the right, cut into the area and drove a low shot past Vandervoort.
With the points safe, West Ham could turn their thoughts to hosting Spurs on Sunday. Rice was given a breather after another accomplished showing and the final stages played out with Moyes’s players protecting their third consecutive clean sheet in this competition.
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