Declan Rice showed why he has become a transfer target for England’s heavy hitters after his superb solo goal that showcased every aspect of his game helped West Ham sink Dinamo Zagreb 2-0.
Kurt Zouma was handed his debut in a centre-back pairing with Issa Diop in West Ham’s first European tie since their Europa League play-off round defeat to Astra Giurgiu in 2016. Nikola Vlasic was also given his first start in Hammers colours, while Michail Antonio led the line ahead of an enforced absence this coming weekend after seeing red versus Southampton.
West Ham settled quickly and began causing Zagreb all manner of problems from set pieces. Antonio also looked lively, though saw appeals for a penalty waved away after taking a tumble under light contact from Josip Sutalo.
It was otherwise a largely forgettable opening 20 minutes, though that soon gave way when the deadly Antonio pounced.
The striker was alert and charged on to an under-hit back-pass a split second before the goalkeeper could clear the ball. With the stopper taking himself out of the equation with a comical air shot, Antonio provided the finishing touch when rolling the ball into the empty net.
1999 – Michail Antonio is West Ham's first goalscorer in major European competition (excl. qualifiers) since Marc-Vivien Foé against Osijek in September 1999. Toes. pic.twitter.com/6DJTrE6xnK
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 16, 2021
The lead could’ve soon been doubled through Ryan Fredericks. A flowing move down the right saw Antonio pick out the marauding right-back with a deft first-time flick. Fredericks raced through on goal but saw his strike repelled by the legs of Dominik Livakovic.
In typical fashion under Moyes, the Hammers were well organised and offered little encouragement to their Croatian counterparts.
As half time approached, West Ham had hoovered up nearly two-thirds of possession and had restricted Zagreb to just two shots both off target.
Five minutes after the break, Declan Rice summed up why he is one of English football’s most talked about players.
Rice first intercepted an errant pass before embarking on a 50-yard run into Zagreb’s penalty area. He shrugged off the attentions of a would-be tackler en route before firing a low strike between the keeper’s legs to round off a superb solo goal in style.
Declan Rice! He kept going and going! 💨🍃
The West Ham skipper takes matters into his own hands, running all the way from inside his own half!
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 16, 2021
Falling two behind finally sparked the hosts into action. Zagreb twice came close to pulling one back but on each occasion their shots drifted agonisingly wide of Lukasz Fabianski’s far post.
Those near-misses did not set in motion a shifting of momentum, however. Within minutes, West Ham were back in cruise control and rarely looked like ceding their advantage.
Moyes rang the changes to ensure his side remained fresh and the likes of Said Benrahma and Mark Noble helped guide West Ham through the remaining minutes with remarkable ease.