West Ham advance in Europa League as group winners
West Ham secured their place in the Europa League last 16 with a win against Rapid Vienna in a match played behind closed doors in Austria.
Andriy Yarmolenko put the Hammers ahead just before half-time when he headed in at the back post from Nikola Vlasic’s cross.
Minutes later, Yarmolenko was fouled by Maximilian Hofmann and captain Mark Noble fired the resulting penalty into the top corner to double their lead.
David Moyes’ side are now guaranteed to win Group H with a game to spare.
The Hammers won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 and lost in the 1976 final. Their run in this season’s Europa League is already their best performance in European competition since 1980-81.
Professional Hammers avoid play-off to cruise into last 16
The Hammers were already guaranteed a top-two spot after collecting 10 points from their opening four matches, but this victory ensured they would finish top.
That means they avoid the qualifying round play-off in February – when the eight Europa League group runners-up face the teams that finish third in their Champions League groups – and move straight into the following phase, the last 16, in March.
There was an eerie atmosphere at the Allianz Stadion, which can host more than 28,000 people.
Increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases in Austria forced the game to be held behind closed doors, although West Ham fans had already been banned from attending following crowd trouble in the away game versus Belgian side Genk.
It was a far cry from the Hammers’ 2-0 win over Rapid Vienna at a packed London Stadium in September – in West Ham’s first-ever home Europa League group game.
Nevertheless, manager Moyes would still have been delighted with the professional performance from his team after making eight changes from the side that began the 1-0 loss to Wolves on Saturday.
Jarrod Bowen, starting up front with Michail Antonio rested, had a good chance to open the scoring but slid an effort just wide after Arthur Masuaku’s excellent low cross from the left.
But the Hammers continued to dominate possession and two goals at the end of the first half gave them deserved control of the game.
Bowen and Tomas Soucek both had efforts saved after the break with Rapid Vienna unable to test visiting goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
With qualification secured, 17-year-old striker Sonny Perkins, who played for England Under-18s earlier this month, was handed his Hammers debut with 13 minutes remaining.
Perkins nearly made an instant impact, but saw a powerful header tipped over by Paul Gartler.
West Ham, fourth in the Premier League, visit Manchester City on Sunday, and Moyes will be able to rest more players in their final Europa League group match, at home to Dinamo Zagreb on 9 December.