- West Ham United beat Serbian Backa Topola 3-1 in their Europa League clash
- Mohammed Kudus and Tomas Soucek scored for West Ham in the second half
- Petar Stanic scored for the visitors and Nemanja Petrovic netted an own goal
Mohammed Kudus arrived for £38million from Ajax to a great deal of excitement around West Ham and how David Moyes hopes this will be the first of many magic moments for his new man.
For a while, Moyes was worried that he was getting, well, Moyes’d in this Europa League tie. Much like West Ham in the Premier League, Backa Topola arrived here with a plan to forgo possession in the hope that a solid defensive shape might see them nick a goal.
The Serbian visitors took the lead after a criminal mistake by Angelo Ogbonna, leaving West Ham up against it at the London Stadium. Yet this is when Kudus showed his worth.
Kudus thought the equaliser was his, only for it to go down as an own goal by Nemanja Petrovic in the 66th minute. But there was no question that he scored West Ham’s next goal in the 70th as he headed home James Ward-Prowse’s corner.
This was a soggy night in Stratford and with Kudus’ help, West Ham were finally able to open the floodgates. Tomas Soucek later completed the scoreline from yet another Ward-Prowse corner, his fifth assist in all competitions this season.
West Ham beat Serbian Backa Topola 3-1 in their Europa League clash on Thursday evening
Mohammed Kudus arrived for £38m from Ajax to a great deal of excitement around West Ham
James Ward-Prowse registered two assists during the game against Serbian minnows
Moyes made nine changes from West Ham’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City and yet his selection demonstrated the depth of the squad. First start for Kudus, their £38m man from Ajax. First minutes for Konstantinos Mavropanos, £18m from Stuttgart. First appearance for Lukasz Fabianski since losing his Premier League place to Alphonse Areola in goal. This was a team that could and should dispatch of their Serbian opponents.
Kudus’ first contribution in a West Ham shirt was to win a free-kick, 25 yards and central to goal. Ward-Prowse stepped up – who else? – but a nick off the top of the wall carried it over the target.
Kudus brought excitement with his energetic storming in from the right-hand side. That opened up space for Thilo Kehrer to fly down the flank and in the 16th minute, only an instinctive save from Nikola Simic denied the right back the opener.
In the 25th minute, Kudus won the ball high up the pitch then had a pop from 20 yards, a deflection from Nemanja Stojic sending it narrowly wide. From the corner, Mavropanos’ header was off target. Soon after, Kudus likewise headed over.
It was all West Ham. As half-time approached, they had managed 84 per cent possession. You would have to trawl back to August 2018 to find the last time they finished a match with more than 80 per cent – a Carabao Cup clash with League One Wimbledon.
Yet for all of the ball they had seen, it still would not cross the line, and then the Serbian visitors fired two warnings. Petar Stanic’s corner was nearly tapped in by Milan Radin. Then, another Stanic corner led to a Stojic header which skimmed the crossbar.
In the 47th minute, the opener arrived and thanks to Ogbonna, it went to Topola. He dawdled on the ball so long that he left Stanic one on one with Fabianski, who could not stop it becoming 1-0.
You could hardly hear the celebrations of the 100 away fans who made the 2,500-mile round trip in the London Stadium. They were drowned out by the gasps of West Ham, who were staring at a shock defeat. Topola may be top of the Serbian Superliga, but even their own manager, Zarko Lazetic, said they felt like ‘guests’ of West Ham.
In his hour of need, Moyes turned to Michail Antonio, but it was Topola’s Petrovic who made it 1-1 in the 66th minute with Kudus in close proximity. Kudus did get his goal in the 70th minute, at least, when he met Ward-Prowse’s corner. Phew, thought Moyes.
There was still time for one more as Ward-Prowse whipped in another corner, this time finding Soucek as West Ham got off to a winning start in the Europa League.
More to follow…