Match report as Mislav Orsic's early stunner gives Dinamo Zagreb a 1-0 win at West Ham, who field five academy graduates in their starting line-up, including three full debutants; Hammers win group and will progress to last 16
Thursday 9 December 2021 22:59, UK
A West Ham side including six homegrown players were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Dinamo Zagreb in their dead rubber final Europa League group game at the London Stadium.
David Moyes took the opportunity to rest most of his first-team squad having already sealed top spot in Group H ahead of the Croatians' visit, and his young charges, three of whom were making their full debuts for the club, were far from outclassed, and they posed for a photograph together in front of the tunnel at the end of a historic night for the Hammers - and were tipped to "become first-team players" in the future by the manager.
Moyes would have feared for their confidence when Mislav Orsic, whose hat-trick knocked Spurs out of the competition last season, struck another sensational strike from distance with less than three minutes on the clock, but the home side regained their composure and held their own against their far more experienced visitors.
Full-backs Harrison Ashby and Emmanuel Longelo in particular impressed, and the former carved out West Ham's best opportunity of a game of few chances, finding Sonny Perkins with a pinpoint cross which he nodded over from a good position.
The defeat, West Ham's first in Europe this season, could not stop them from finishing top in Group H, while Dinamo did enough to ensure they qualify for the play-off round by finishing second, although Genk's defeat to Rapid Vienna meant any result would have been enough for the Croatians to progress.
West Ham: Areola (6), Ashby (6), Baptiste (5), Alese (6), Longelo (6), Noble (5), Kral (6), Fornals (5), Yarmolenko (5), Perkins (5), Vlasic (5).
Subs: Benrahma (5), Appiah-Forson, Potts (n/a).
Dinamo Zagreb: Livakovic (6), Sutalo (6), Theophile-Catherine (6), Peric (7), Ristovski (7), Ademi (6), Gojak (6), Stefulj (7), Ivanusec (7), Andric (6), Orsic (7).
Subs: Misic (5), Juric (6), Bulat (5), Dilaver (5).
Man of the match: Mislav Orsic.
With their progression already assured, West Ham's team-sheet showed the result was secondary for David Moyes in their final Europa League group game with six homegrown players, including captain Mark Noble, named in his starting line-up.
Ironically it was two of his older charges, Andriy Yarmolenko and Pablo Fornals, whose half-hearted pressing allowed Orsic space for his opener, although few would have expected him to beat Alphonse Areola from the corner of the penalty area, with his strike off the far stanchion a stunning goal.
Once the young hosts regained their composure they should have levelled. Perkins did everything right to meet Ashby's excellent cross from the right but his header let down his good preparation, and he nodded harmlessly wide from an inviting position.
The visitors nearly made West Ham pay as Daniel Stefulj drifted past Ashby out wide with ease and picked out Arijan Ademi unmarked in the middle, where he too fluffed his lines and nodded harmlessly over.
The second half offered little as a spectacle at either end with Dinamo's one-goal lead enough to see them through, while the Hammers huffed and puffed without building any serious momentum.
Orsic was denied a second by a wayward shot which bent just the wrong side of Areola's goal frame in the only real chance of note, although the Hammers came close to a late equaliser out of nothing from an unlikely source, as centre-back Aji Alese stretched to meet Alex Kral's flick but was just beaten to the ball by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
West Ham manager David Moyes: "I thought they did really well. We scored a fluke against Chelsea from the same area but apart from that, I thought the young boys did really well.
"It was a tough game, ideally we would not play five [young players] but we were forced into it slightly. Overall, I thought they all acquitted themselves well. At times you could see their youthfulness - but you also saw some of them out there will continue to improve and become first-team players.
"I am always happy to give young players a chance, but I have to be a realist and say they must earn the right to play. None of them let us down, they did a great job - but I also would like to be in a situation where I do not have so many on the pitch at one time."
The Europa League play-off draw takes place in Nyon, Switzerland on December 13.
The eight sides finishing second in their Europa League group will be seeded and drawn against the eight sides who finished third in their Champions League groups. No team can play a club from their group or any side from their own country.
The sides who finished second in their Europa League groups will play the first leg of their last-16 tie away from home.
The first legs of the play-off ties will be played on February 17, with the return fixtures a week later on February 24.
West Ham travel to face Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday; kick-off 2pm.