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  • by Yann Tear at the London Stadium

Rice and Benrahma on target as Hammers shoot the Rapids to maintain perfect Euro start


West Ham (1) 2 Rice 29, Benrahma 90

Rapid Vienna (0) 0

West Ham have taken firm control of their Europa League group by making it two wins out of two.

A first-half goal from Declan Rice and an injury-time effort from Said Benrahma was enough to seal the deal.

There was a big scare for the Irons on 71 minutes when German ref Tobias Stieler awarded a penalty to Rapid after an apparent trip by Ben Johnson on Marco Grull.

Contact was non-existant, however, and a VAR alert put the official right.

The Hammers were far from at their best but they go into Sunday’s clash with Brentford on the back of a hat-trick of wins – having won at Leeds and Man United (in the League Cup) earlier in the week.

David Moyes rested Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna in defence. Midfielders Tomas Soucek and Pablo Fornals, and striker Jarrod Bowen only came on as subs, but it was still a very strong starting XI that set out to seize the initiative in this early stage of the competion.

A hugely impressive turnout – which included a buoyant and boisterous away section – was an indication of just how much it means to the Hammers fans to be back on the European stage once more.

It was been a while since they last participated in such ventures and even longer since the glorious Cup Winners Cup campaigns from bygone eras.

Their previous foray led to qualifying elimination at the hands of Romanian side Astra Giurgiu two years running, the latest when Slave Bilic was at the helm five years ago. There is a very different level of expectation this time around.

The Hammers almost drew first blood with the game only eight minutes old – Rice glancing a header against a post and Issa Diop scuffing the rebound just wide of the opposite upright.

Craig Dawson got up at the far post to nod an Aaron Cresswell corner onto that same post to the right of beaten keeper Paul Gartier.

Then on 29 minutes, the breakthrough. Andriy Yarmolenko played a fine ball out wide to Michail Antonio and the striker unselfishly laid a perfect square pass for Rice to tap into an unguarded net.

Rice scored in the 2-0 win away to Dinamo Zagreb in the opening group stage match and, as some wiseacre statisticians point out, means he has scored as many goals for the Irons in European ties as Sir Geoff Hurst.

The Hammers and England legend addressed the crowd at half-time having been present on Wednesday for the unveiling of a new statue outside the Bobby Moore stand of the World Cup winning trio of Hurst, Moore and Martin Peters.

Fornals and Bowen came on and the latter missed a glorious chance to put the game to bed, skying over after going around the keeper and having the goal seemingly at his mercy. Fornals too struck the keeper’s palms late on.

Fortunately for the happy Hammers, it did not matter – and they did finally get that late second when Benrahma cut in from the left edge of the penalty area and rolled the ball onto the bottom far corner.

Hammers: (4-3-3) Areola – Johnson, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell – Noble (Soucek 62), Rice, Benrahma – Yarmolenko (Fornals 76), Antonio (Bowen 62), Vlasic (Lanzini 62)

Rapid: (4-2-3-1) Gartier – Alwu, Greimi (Stojkovic 62) , Wimmer, Ullmann (Auer 74) – Petrovic (Ljubicic 81), Grahovac – Arase, Knassmullner, Fountas (Kitagawa 62) – Kara (Grull 62)

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