Good News: Hammers brutally smash Top German rivals to secure top spot

Europa League Report: West Ham United silence German rivals SC Freiburg to top the Europa League

After a convincing victory over SC Freiburg, a German team vying for a spot in the UEFA Europa League, West Ham United achieved their goal and advanced into the third consecutive season’s round of 16.

The Hammers won two goals at London Stadium thanks to both of their summer acquisitions from Ajax. Mohammed Kudus opened the scoring in the 14th minute, and Edson Álvarez scored his first goal in the claret and blue just before halftime.

Even though they had already secured their spot in the play-off round for February, David Moyes’ team sealed the deal on their historic 2023 European extravaganza by winning Group A, which now ensures them a seeded berth in the round of 16 come March.

Back in early October, West Ham’s 2-1 victory over Freiburg in the sold-out Stadion am Wolfswinkel had quieted the German team’s supporters, who were serving UEFA’s one-match terrace ban.

In addition to setting a British record of 17 games without a loss in European competition, that victory gave the Hammers the upper hand over the team currently occupying eighth place in their home Bundesliga.

After Sunday’s disastrous loss at Craven Cottage to a fierce, five-goal Fulham team, Moyes made three substitutions: Álvarez, Emerson, and Konstantinos Mavropanos replaced Pablo Fornals, Aaron Cresswell, and Kurt Zouma.

And while Freiburg forced an early corner, which Nicolas Höfler headed wide, only the woodwork stood in the way of Lucas Paquetá’s rising 18-yarder in the fifth minute, which broke Noah Atubolu’s crossbar and gave West Ham the lead.

Freiburg had defeated VFL Wolfsburg 1-0 on Saturday. In fact, they had won three straight games across all competitions. Coming into the East End, they knew they would need to win and score at least two goals to have a chance of overtaking Group A leaders West Ham and sending them into the knockout round versus Freiburg.

However, after witnessing the goal-frame save them early on, the visitors were not so lucky on the thirteenth minute, as Álvarez skillfully chipped the ball forward towards the eighteen-yard line from the edge of the center circle. Kudus then skillfully chested down and cut an angled left-footed shot across the face of the defenseless Atubolu, ghosting past his markers.

West Ham vs Freiburg LIVE! Europa League result, match stream and latest  updates today | Evening Standard

Though it was a well-crafted goal on Amsterdam’s training fields, there was a nervous moment for the Ghanaian international as the Video Assistant Referee gave the all-clear to his seventh goal since he signed a £38 million contract with the Dutch powerhouses. There was also a possible hint of handball in controlling his former Ajax team-mate’s pass.

However, Jarrod Bowen was not as fortunate midway through the half when Paquetá sent him clear in a carbon copy of the Hammers attack. This time, however, an offside flag supported by video evidence determined that West Ham’s No. 20 had in fact set off a split second too soon.

Just five minutes prior to halftime, Łukasz Fabiański made his initial significant contribution of the game by making a low save against Ritsu Doan’s low-angled 15-yard attempt; however, that proved to be insignificant resistance against a Hammers team that was determined to hold onto the top spot.

After opening the score for Kudus, Álvarez helped himself to a goal on 42 minutes. He collected a pass from Paquetá and then advanced forward, riding Matthias Ginter’s sliding lunge and firing an angled 10-yarder past the well-beaten Atubolu after playing a clever one-two with Bowen on the edge of the Freiburg penalty area.

Even though Moyes’ team was now firmly in the round of 16, that second goal from the Hammers made Christian Streich’s halftime team talk all the more difficult. Streich then substituted Merlin Röhl for Roland Sallai.

Freiburg muss nach 0:2 in Zwischenrunde der Europa League - Sport-News aus  dem Rems-Murr-Kreis und der Welt - Zeitungsverlag Waiblingen

Despite their defeat, the boisterous white-shirted fans in the visiting section persisted in jumping up and down, hoping that the recently added substitute would work his magic. Without any delay, the newcomer unleashed a low, angled shot that Fabiański managed to save at full stretch.

Conversely, Bowen skillfully skied over from a few yards away, and Kudus curled just inches wide before Álvarez, having completed his task and only receiving a booking during the knockout stages, retired for the evening as Fornals came off the bench.

Both teams made a flurry of substitutions as Moyes substituted Danny Ings and Divin Mubama for Paquetá and Bowen in an attempt to rest tired legs ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against Wolves (2pm), and Streich changed half of his starting lineup for Freiburg in an attempt to salvage a faint chance of winning the match.

But that was always going to be asking for too much, and now that the Hammers can put their passports away until early March, the Germans can look forward to Monday’s draw for those knockout stages in mid-February.

West Ham United’s lineup is as follows: Ward-Prowse, Souček, Paquetá (Mubama 72), Kudus (Cornet 88), Bowen (Ings 72), Emerson, Aguerd, Mavropanos, Álvarez (Fornals 64), and Fabiański. Areola, Johnson, Cresswell, Zouma, Ogbonna, Benrahma, Coventry are the substitutes that were not used.

SC Freiburg: Ginter, Gulde, Höfler, Eggestein (Höler 56), Doan, Grifo (Weißhaupt 68), Sallai (Röhl 46), Gregoritsch (Amadu 56), Atubolu, Sildillia, Makengo (Kübler 74). Subs not used: Jantunen, Müller, Rüdlin, Baur.

João Pinheiro is the Portuguese referee.

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