Match report as West Ham secure top spot in Group H with a 2-0 win at Rapid Vienna; Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Mark Noble earn victory in Vienna; David Moyes' side avoid play-off round to reach the last 16 with a game to spare
Thursday 25 November 2021 23:45, UK
West Ham secured top spot in Group H and a place in the Europa League last 16 with a 2-0 victory at Rapid Vienna.
With Austria recently returning to a full national lockdown to curb rising Covid-19 infections, the game was played in an empty stadium, but it did not deter West Ham, who continued their impressive Europa League campaign.
Andriy Yarmolenko headed the Hammers in front in the 39th minute before the Ukraine international was brought down inside the penalty area as skipper Mark Noble doubled the advantage from the spot in stoppage time at the end of the first half (45+2).
With a trip to Manchester City in mind on Sunday, David Moyes shuffled his pack in the second half as West Ham cruised to a win that continues their unbeaten record in this season's competition and means they top the group with a game to spare to avoid the play-off round.
With Vienna in lockdown, Rapid were unable to call on their boisterous fans to lift them, and West Ham simply had too much class.
They almost got off to the perfect start when Arthur Masuaku drove a low cross into the box for the sliding Jarrod Bowen to poke just wide after five minutes.
Nikola Vlasic and Yarmolenko both fired narrowly over in a bright opening from the visitors.
The only moment of mild alarm came when Kelvin Arase weaved into a shooting position, and his effort was saved by back-up keeper Alphonse Areola on his way to a fifth clean sheet in six appearances for the Hammers.
Their dominance finally told six minutes before half-time when Vlasic crossed from the left and Yarmolenko was left with a simple header back across goal.
It was a first Hammers goal since January for the Ukraine international, who has played only 52 minutes in the Premier League this season.
Yarmolenko had a big hand in the second goal in first-half stoppage time after he turned Rapid skipper Maximilian Hofmann in the area and was brought down.
Captain Noble, a man clearly relishing this European adventure in his 18th and final season at the club, made no mistake from the spot.
After the break Bowen's quick feet in the area accounted for three defenders, but his shot was straight at Rapid goalkeeper Paul Gartler.
Gartler also denied Tomas Soucek before Bowen's follow-up was blocked on the line.
Teenage striker Sonny Perkins came on as a substitute for his Hammers debut and almost marked it with a goal when he met Vladimir Coufal's cross with a fine header, but Gartler made a stunning reflex save and West Ham had to settle for two.
West Ham boss David Moyes: "Job done, yeah. We did a professional job tonight and throughout the group stage we've done a good job. It's great credit to the players for the way they have gone about the job for a group relatively new to Europe.
"It's something I've not taken in yet. I knew we could get the job done but I think tonight we have not played as well as we have done, but we did enough to get us through.
"It's probably a good sign that I'm not totally pleased with the way we played but we've won relatively comfortably."
West Ham travel to Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday at 2pm. Moyes' side are at home to Dinamo Zagreb in their final Europa League group game on Thursday December 9 (kick-off 8pm).