West Ham’s fans are still suffering from a slight European hangover. From the high of last year’s Europa League semi-final, they were back to business tonight in the far less glamorous Europa Conference League qualifying round. How do you cure a hangover? Well, Berocca and a Big Mac certainly helps but instead the Hammers ills were eased by Gianluca Scamacca, who scored the opening goal in a 3-1 first-leg win against Viborg.
The big Italian striker on his first start for his new club proved why they spent £32m to secure his signature this summer with his first goal for the club. In what was a fairly dour game, Scamacca showed what he can offer David Moyes by heading home a Maxwel Cornet cross midway through the first half.
The lack of enthusiasm combined with the London rail strikes was reflected in the empty seats at the London Stadium, but those that had decided to battle their way through the capital to watch Europe’s third best club competition were rewarded by seeing their new additions in action.
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Cornet was deployed on the left-wing with Jarrod Bowen on the right in a strong line-up as manager Moyes was forced to watch from the stands - serving a one-match ban from European competition. But his message that places were up for grabs was heard loud and clear, as Cornet beat two men on the left wing before standing up a cross for Scamacca to head home.
This was the biggest game many of these Viborg players have ever experienced and they gave a decent account of themselves up against Premier League regulars. It looked like the tie could slip away from them as Bowen fired in the second from the outside of the box, but they gave their traveling contingent a moment to remember.
Christian Sorensen put in a wonderful cross from the left and Jakob Bonde rose highest to power home a header that kept the tie alive. The green army, who were providing the only level of atmosphere inside the London atmosphere went wild with delight and all of a sudden, a West Ham side that were in control suddenly looked nervy.
In the end though, it was the proven players off the bench that sealed the win for the Hammers. Said Benrahma, who has a big season ahead of him, made inroads down the left and drove towards goal, before setting up Michail Antonio for the easiest of finishes.
It will have sent the West Ham fans home happy, certainly happier than they would have been at half-time when they saw the price of the food and drink at the London Stadium. £5.10 for a bottle of Coca-Cola or Fanta? £2.50 for a Twix. Madness.
Their new signings will almost certainly prove better value for money. Cornet’s talent is unquestionable and it wil be exciting to see how he progresses in a forward-thinking team, while Scamacca is the signing tasked with muscling Michail Antonio out of that number nine spot. Scoring goals is the best way to do that, and so far his statistics read one start, one goal. West Ham should progress from this tie, and perhaps another European adventure awaits.