Subscribe to Miguel Delaney’s Reading the Game newsletter and receive it for free directly in your inbox.
Subscribe to Miguel Delaney’s weekly newsletter for free.
Tomas Soucek once again scored a late goal to help West Ham advance to the knockout rounds of the Europa League, despite a dull match against Backa Topola from Serbia.
The Czech midfielder has recently scored in his past five games for both his club and the national team, with a late 89th-minute volley securing a narrow 1-0 victory.
The team must now complete their task against Freiburg at the London Stadium in two weeks to secure first place in the group and avoid a two-game playoff in February.
Approximately 320 resilient West Ham supporters traveled 2,000 miles to the Balkans, with a subset undertaking a 100-mile trip along the motorway from Belgrade to the TSC Arena.
Several individuals were granted their request for 19-year-old Divin Mubama to make his first start of the season as forwards Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio were unavailable due to injuries. Mubama was part of the winning FA Youth Cup team.
However, the young player had very limited opportunities to touch the ball as West Ham faced difficulties in energizing themselves in the quiet town of Serbia.
The hosts entered the match following a 4-0 victory against Partizan, who are currently leading the Super League. They began the game with confidence, as Uros Milovanovic’s shot was saved by Lukasz Fabianski.
After being given a rare chance to start in the game against Burnley, Aaron Cresswell made an error that led to Aleksandar Cirkovic having a shot on goal. Fortunately, goalkeeper Fabianski was able to make the save. This came after seven changes were made to the team that had secured a late victory in the previous match.
After 30 minutes of play, West Ham finally managed to get a shot on goal. Said Benrahma, celebrating his 150th appearance for the team, took a weak attempt that was easily handled by Veljko Ilic.
The first half was incredibly dull, as described by former player Joe Cole on TNT Sports as “dross” and “appalling”.
After 60 minutes, manager David Moyes brought in Danny Ings and Maxwel Cornet, who had not been seen much before, to replace Benrahma and Mubama. This was an attempt to add some energy to their unimpressive team.
As the game entered stoppage time, Cornet delivered a cross from the left side and Soucek successfully struck a volley to secure the win.
Over the last three years, West Ham has had an exciting journey in Europe, which culminated in their remarkable victory in the Europa Conference League final in Prague.
While not a particularly memorable match, this was Moyes and his team’s 18th win in 20 matches in Europe, accomplishing their goal.