A Night of Redemption at London Stadium
West Ham United, the heralded victors of last season’s Europa Conference League, made a triumphant return to the Europa League, securing a 3-1 victory against TSC Backa Topola. However, the journey to victory was not straightforward, as the Hammers had to recover from an early setback.
The Unexpected Challenge
TSC Backa Topola, hailing from a small town in northern Serbia, managed to shock the hosts by taking the lead, courtesy of a goal from Petar Stanic. Despite the initial shock, West Ham showcased their resilience, eventually claiming victory through an own goal and decisive headers from Mohammed Kudus and Tomas Soucek.
The Battle Unfolds
The match, not being the marquee fixture of a group that features Olympiacos and Freiburg, witnessed several empty seats at the London Stadium, dampening the atmosphere. The Hammers, however, were on the verge of taking an early lead, with a deflected free-kick from James Ward-Prowse narrowly missing the target.
Said Benrahma, with his consistent creativity from the left, and a determined Danny Ings, were the main architects of West Ham’s offensive play. However, numerous attempts failed to significantly challenge TSC’s goalkeeper, Nikola Simic. The visitors nearly capitalised on this profligacy, hitting the bar with a header in the first half’s stoppage time.
Turning the Tide
West Ham’s lack of heed to the warning was evident as they were taken by surprise by TSC’s renewed energy in the second half. A critical error from Angelo Ogbonna allowed Stanic to coolly finish, putting the Hammers on the back foot. The response from West Ham was not immediate, but a moment of brilliance from Benrahma led to an own goal by Nemanja Petrovic, levelling the score.
Kudus and Soucek’s subsequent goals, coupled with Ward-Prowse’s impeccable set-piece delivery, sealed the victory for West Ham, despite some close calls and top saves from Simic.
James Ward-Prowse’s corners proved to be pivotal for West Ham, earning him the player of the match. Other notable performances included Mohammed Kudus and Said Benrahma, who played crucial roles in turning the game around. Angelo Ogbonna, however, had a night to forget, with his grave error almost costing the team dearly.
David Moyes, with his strategic changes and tactical reshuffle, played a significant role in steering the team back into the game, earning him an 8/10 rating for his managerial acumen.