Needing just a point to top their UEFA Europa League group and progress to the round-of-sixteen without a playoff against a relegated UEFA Champions League side, West Ham United welcomed SC Freiburg to London Stadium on Thursday.
WHU: Fabianski; Emerson, Aguerd, Mavropanos, Coufal; Ward-Prowse, Alvarez, Soucek; Paqueta, Bowen, Kudus
SCF: Atubolu; Makengo, Gulden, Ginter, Sidillia; Grifo, Höfler, Eggestein, Doan; Gregoritsch, Sallai
Confidence was high in East London on Thursday, with the Hammers safe in the knowledge that their 2-1 victory over Freiburg earlier in their European campaign would see them progress with just a draw.
But Mohammed Kudus put David Moyes’ side on course for victory after 14 minutes, controlling an accurate pass from Edson Alvarez with his chest before picking out the back of the net with a composed finish.Embed from Getty Images
Three minutes before the break, Alvarez netted a goal of his own, driving towards goal before slotting past Atubolu to double the Hammers’ advantage.
It would be one of his last involvements in the game though, as he was substituted just ten minutes into the second half as a precaution ahead of a frenetic festive period.
Freiburg never looked to threaten West Ham’s lead, with a curling strike from Ritsu Doan proving to be the most challenging effort they could muster to test Lukasz Fabianski.
While West Ham have avoided a two-legged playoff, SC Freiburg must now face a third-placed team from the UEFA Champions League and emerge victorious if they’re to join the Hammers in the round-of-sixteen.