West Ham produced a professional performance to secure top spot in Group A and a place in the Europa League last 16 with a 2-0 win over a below-par Freiburg on Thursday night.

The Hammers took the lead when Mohammed Kudus made a clever run and lashed in his seventh goal of the season, with the brilliant Edson Alvarez’s first for the club doubling the lead just before the break.

Freiburg – who had won their last three games, without conceding, in all competitions – found themselves in positions of promise on several occasions, but did little to test Lukasz Fabianski, who once again deputised in goal for Alphonse Areola.

As a result, while the Hammers advance straight to the last 16, which takes place in March, the Bundesliga side will face a knockout round play-off in February to attempt to earn their spot in the next round of the competition.

How West Ham strolled to top spot

As much as West Ham knew what they had to do to finish top of their group, providing an adequate response to Sunday’s thumping 5-0 defeat away at Fulham was no doubt high on the priority list for David Moyes and his players.

It did not take long for them to get into their stride. First, Kudus skipped away from his man and squared for Lucas Paqueta to rattle a shot off the crossbar, before the Ghana international made a clever run to beat the offside trap, latch onto Alvarez’s ball over the top and fire across Noah Atubolu, into the back of the net.

Mohammed Kudus celebrates putting West Ham 1-0 up at the London Stadium

Jarrod Bowen then had the ball in the net after a carbon copy of the opener, only to be ruled offside in the build-up, but it was 2-0 when Alvarez received the ball from Paqueta, escaped his marker, collected the return pass from Bowen and fired home a damaging second just before the break.

Early in the second half, Kudus came close to a second, when he fired inches past the post after being released by Bowen, but as the game progressed, it became clearer missed chances would not be punished.

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Speaking on the ‘Football Show’, Peter Smith assesses David Moyes’ contract situation at West Ham, with his current deal set to expire at the end of the season.

Freiburg had created 0.09 xG by the break, 0.14 by the hour mark and set-piece routines were not coming to fruition for them, either. Moyes could even afford to withdraw Bowen and Paqueta with almost 20 minutes remaining.

In fairness, the German side did manage to test Fabianski towards the end. Ritsu Doan’s low effort was kept out by a well-timed dive to the right, before Merlin Rohl’s shot with five minutes to play was held, too. But it was too little, too late.

Moyes ‘thrilled’ with win | ‘Not playing in EL again until March is massive’

West Ham manager David Moyes:

“I’m thrilled. I thought we played well for long periods, went a couple of goals up and then missed a couple of really good chances, which could have maybe wrapped it up a bit sooner that just kept us hanging on a little bit. We just didn’t want to drop off it. I knew the game would change, they would come into it a bit more and we were trying to see it out more than anything in the second half. We did a really good job.

“It was a lot more like it, certainly in Europe. We’ve done very well in Europe over the last three years and this was a good win against a good German side; it’s never easy to beat German teams. I thought we even played better tonight than we did in Freiburg – and I thought we did a good job in Freiburg as well.

David Moyes' side do not play in the Europa League again until March
David Moyes’ side do not play in the Europa League again until March

“We lost to Olympiakos, but it’s the only loss we’ve had in 19 or 20 games now. It’s a great record for us because we’re not a well-known European club at the moment. It’s been great for us. Overall, I think we deserved it and, thankfully, we’re at the top.

“Let me tell you, it is really massive [not to have to play in Europe until March] because of the amount of games everybody has got in the schedule. We’re all going into a busy period, which we know – our culture means we play a lot of games around Christmas.”

Hammers’ European dream shows no signs of dying – Opta facts

  • West Ham have qualified as group winners in each of their last three seasons in European competition, winning 15 of their 18 matches (D1 L2), indeed only FC Bayern München (17) have won more group stage games in Europe in that time.
  • West Ham United have won 10 consecutive home games in all European competition (inc. qualifiers), becoming just the fifth English team to register 10 home wins in a row, along with Arsenal (1971), Man City (2021 and 2023), Man Utd (1968 and 2008) and Tottenham (1971, 1974 and 2022).
  • Having also won 2-1 in Freiburg on MD2 of the 2023-24 UEFA Europa League, West Ham United have defeated a German side twice in the same European season for the first time ever.
  • West Ham’s Edson Álvarez scored his first goal for the club (19th appearance), while in also assisting Mohammed Kudus for the opener, he became the first player to both score and assist in a single UEFA Europa League game for the Hammers.

What’s next?

Sunday 17th December 1:00pm

Kick off 2:00pm

West Ham turn their attention back to the Premier League as they play Wolves at home on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports with kick-off at 2pm.

Freiburg take on FC Koln in the Bundesliga on Sunday, with kick-off at 2.30pm.

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