- West Ham became the sixth English club to top European group for third season
- Moyes will be especially happy that they don’t have to play two play-off games
- Manchester United fans must be DREADING Anfield trip – It’s All Kicking Off
West Ham’s fans had been calling for David Moyes’ team to turn on the style and who better to satisfy those demands than the man they lured from Ajax, the home of Total Football.
Edson Alvarez assisted and scored as the Hammers entered the Europa League’s last-16 with utter ease. That first-half influence from their £35million man was enough to make sure they topped the group ahead of last night’s visitors Freiburg of Germany.
From the sickbed to the scoresheet, Alvarez underlined his importance to this team, having missed West Ham’s 5-0 humiliation at Fulham due to illness. It is little wonder the 26-year-old Mexican is nicknamed ‘El Machine’ – ‘The Machine’ – if he can return like this.
Signed as a replacement for Declan Rice, he is usually seen stopping attacks. Here the 26-year-old Mexican was starting them. Alvarez’s ball in behind for Mohammed Kudus – another summer signing from Ajax at £38m – to score the opener was delicately done.
The goal he secured for himself was the product of the kind of passing move the supporters have been craving as he and Jarrod Bowen exchanged a one-two, with Freiburg’s players showing nowhere near as much energy as their fans.
Alvarez’s ball in behind for former Ajax star Mohammed Kudus’s opener was delicately done
Edson Alvarez celebrates with Mohammed Kudus after scoring his side’s second goal of match
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‘The two of them have made great contributions already,’ Moyes said of Alvarez and Kudus, his Ajax duo. ‘They’re settled in really well and are doing a good job.’
The year 2023 will be remembered as a historic one for West Ham after winning the Europa Conference League. Moyes hopes 2024 will prove as memorable in the Europa League.
Yet there were swathes of empty seats in the upper tiers of the London Stadium, this clash to decide who finished first and second in Group A seemingly not capturing the imagination.
The permutations for West Ham were simple. Win or draw and they would finish top. Lose and they would finish second, forcing them into the two-legged play-offs.
Moyes did not want to add another two games to a roster that is rammed enough as it is. He hoped for an early goal to settle the nerves and nearly got it when Lucas Paqueta struck Freiburg’s crossbar from 18 yards inside five minutes.
West Ham took the lead after 13 minutes and at first, Moyes did not look too pleased with Alvarez when he floated a ball in behind Freiburg’s back line. The Scot was soon shaking his fists in celebration when Kudus chested it down before beating Noah Atubolu.
Freiburg’s high line seemed to be there for the taking and West Ham hoped they had exploited it again in the 25th minute when Bowen scored from Paqueta’s ball in behind, but he was offside.
This victory meant Moyes’ men became the sixth English club to top their European group
Alvarez assisted and scored as Hammers entered the Europa League ’s last-16 with utter ease
That only delayed the inevitable as West Ham doubled their advantage before the break. Alvarez received a disguised pass from Paqueta before flying forward and playing a one-two with Bowen, picking up possession to score past Atubolu.
There was a warning from Freiburg at the start of the second half that they were still in this contest, with half-time substitute Merlin Rohl forcing Lukasz Fabianski into his first save.
Yet Bowen should have confirmed this win when Vladimir Coufal’s cross fell to him inside the six-yard box. The West Ham striker made a mess of what should have been a tap-in by his standards, before Kudus then blazed his attempt wide from 16 yards.
Having missed Sunday at Fulham due to his illness, Alvarez was removed after 54 minutes here. His work was done, as West Ham breezed into the Europa League’s last-16.