Declan Rice and Said Benrahma capped the London Stadium’s first home game in a European finals with the goals in West Ham’s 2-0 victory over Rapid Vienna.
The Hammers kept up their perfect start to life in Group H with a convincing win over last season’s Austrian Bundesliga runners-up, and could well have won by more as both Craig Dawson and Rice headed against the woodwork with the score goalless.
West Ham’s recent history in continental competition is so sparse their last home goal in Europe came from Frank Lampard in 1999 and Rice’s winner on the half-hour mark channelled the spirit of the retired midfielder, with his run from deep found by Michail Antonio to leave him a back-post tap-in.
That goal sparked aggressive scenes among the Rapid fans, who mounted the barriers at the front of their stand and needed stewards to hold them back from reaching the nearest section of West Ham supporters.
Fears of a repeat performance after half-time when a penalty was awarded against Ben Johnson for tripping Marco Grull inside the West Ham penalty area were calmed when referee Tobias Stieler overturned his decision once he had watched the VAR review monitor.
The visitors, already struggling in their own domestic league, offered little else of note before Benrahma slotted in from an injury-time corner to allow the Hammers to celebrate a second win in a row to take them three points clear at the top of their group.
Hammers’ European dream continues 100-per-cent start
A statue of West Ham legends Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters was unveiled ahead of Thursday’s game in tribute to their victorious Cup Winners’ Cup campaign in 1965, as this Hammers generation set about making European history of their own and the London Stadium made its Europa League bow.
There were less than seven minutes gone when Rice rose for a header from Cresswell’s free-kick and smacked the woodwork from 12 yards. It would be another 20 before they went close again, when Dawson, from a Cresswell corner, nodded onto the other post.
It was third time lucky two minutes later as Rice kept up his own 100-per-cent record in this year’s Europa League, feeding Andriy Yarmolenko to flick the ball into the box for Antonio, who spotted the midfielder’s run from deep and left him a simple finish.
Dawson nodded over another excellent Cresswell delivery with the half’s final chance, before firing another wayward header wide after the break from the same source.
A slew of first-choice substitutions for the final 20 minutes threatened to pile more pressure on the limited visitors as Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals were introduced, but within minutes the visitors were handed a massive opportunity to level.
Referee Stieler penalised Johnson’s slide towards Grull moments before the substitute fell inside the area, but after reviewing the VAR monitor noticed the winger had tripped himself up and overturned his original decision.
That seemed to liven the hosts up again, and with 10 minutes left Bowen should have wrapped things up when rounding Paul Gartler before firing over a gaping goal on his right foot.
Deep into added time the icing on the cake did follow, as Bowen turned provider for Benrahma on the left of the area, and the Algerian kept up his fine scoring form this season with a smart finish inside the far post.
West Ham host Premier League new boys Brentford at the London Stadium on Sunday; Kick-off at 2pm.
Rapid Vienna’s next game is a relegation six-pointer against the only side below them in the Austrian Bundesliga, WSG Tirol, also on Sunday; Kick-off at 1.30pm.