West Ham went into what on paper was their hardest Europa Cup group stage fixture as an unknown quantity, well they are a known one now. David Moyes was 'forced' to alter his original game plan for the match due to Michail Antonio's red card against Southampton and the player's subsequent lack of availability for the crucial fixture double header against Ronaldo United.
Michail Antonio showed just how much he is going to be missed by putting in an 'Antoniosque' performance, he occupied as many as FOUR defenders at a time! It was Big Mikey's massive presence that helped unsettle the Dinamo Zagreb defenders and midfielders from the off, the panic and fouls they resorted to were testimony to just how much they were bullied.
Antonio latched on to a 'Lingard' like back pass and stole the goal that put Hammers ahead in a first half that David Moyes' well drilled team dominated. The second half was always going to be different, after all the home team are regular Champions League qualifiers and perennial winners of their domestic league, in other words they are no mugs.
Dinamo began the 2nd half like a team that had been given a good rollicking by their manager, as their approach was far more on the front foot which was initially a bit of a test for what was an almost full strength Hammers team. However the centre back pairing of Diop and Zouma were superb as they snuffed out the opposition, their pairing could form the basis of a central defence partnership that could serve the club for years to come.
When Alphonse Areola finally takes over between the sticks he might become a third of a French defensive triumvirate, and that's excluding French speaking Authur Masuaku and Said Benrahma, sacre bleu! Moyes may have sacrificed the Ronaldo fest game by selecting so many first team players tonight, but it was important to make a 'European' statement and that is exactly what they did.
Winning the group is essential in order to avoid the teams that drop down from the Champions League, so tonight's victory was really important if Hammers are to progress further than just the group stage. A comprehensive professional performance from a West Ham team who looked the polar opposite of the team that 'appeared' against the Saints.
Declan Rice's superb solo effort won the game for The Irons just as the home team were exerting some sustained pressure, having robbed an attacking midfielder Decs slalomed his way the length the pitch before nutmegging the keeper. What a fine result for Hammers first proper Euro outing in a generation, it is to be hoped that there are no incidents involving fans in Zagreb tonight, because it is a beautiful city and it was a beautiful result. - Ed