West Ham storm into Conference League group stage; Zurich edge Hearts in Europa League playoffs

Tomas Soucek of West Ham United scores the 0-3 goal against Goalkeeper Lucas Lund Pedersen of Viborg FF during the UEFA Conference League Playoff 2nd...
Tomas Soucek of West Ham United scores the 0-3 goal against Goalkeeper Lucas Lund Pedersen of Viborg FF during the UEFA Conference League Playoff 2nd Leg match between Viborg FF and West Ham United at Energy Viborg Arena on August 25, 2022 in Viborg, Denmark.

 

West Ham shrugged off their dismal Premier League start to ease into the Europa Conference League group stage on Thursday with a 6-1 aggregate rout of Viborg in their play-off tie.

Already 3-0 up from last week’s first leg in London, West Ham secured victory with £30 million striker Gianluca Scamacca, Algerian international Said Benrahma and Czech star Tomas Soucek on target in Denmark.

The English side were barely threatened but goalkeeper Alphonse Areola had to be alert with a double save to keep out Jay-Roy Grot and Justin Lonwijk.

“It’s massive for us to be in the group stage. We’re fighting every year to get European football for our people and we couldn’t miss this opportunity,” Spanish midfielder Pablo Fornals told the club website.

“We knew that coming here the atmosphere would be tough, and it wasn’t easy to come here and play against a crowd that probably knew it was hard to qualify, but were still here to support their team with everything. It wasn’t easy.

“Viborg were a very good team too. They had really good players with qualities. The throw-ins from the left were difficult to defend and they had a big forward too.”

The Hammers now go into Friday’s draw for the group stage but will then turn their attentions to resuscitating their Premier League campaign.

They are currently rock bottom of the table having lost all three of their opening games without scoring a goal.

Villarreal, who were Europa League champions in 2021, also made the group stage with a 2-0 win at Hajduk Split for a 6-2 aggregate triumph.

Alfonso Pedraza and Samuel Chukwueze scored the goals for the Spanish side who made the Champions League semi-finals last year.

 

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