There is something special about West Ham when they play here on Thursday nights. An English record ninth successive home victory in European competition – surpassing Manchester City’s mark – courtesy of a superb goal from Lucas Paquetá gave David Moyes’s side the revenge they craved since losing to Olympiakos last time out. The victory almost sealed their progression from the Europa League group stage with two games to spare.
This was far from a vintage performance as West Ham laboured for much of this match. But it is mission accomplished for Moyes, who has endured a testing few weeks after the highs of last season and the Europa Conference League triumph.
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“We were disappointed to lose our unbeaten record against Olympiakos last time so to get back on track is great,” said the West Ham manager, whose side have not won in the Premier League since the end of September. “It’s been a great competition for this club and long may they continue. We did the job tonight and got the result but now we have to try and improve our league form.”
Moyes had been sufficiently scarred by the defeat in Greece a fortnight ago that he made only three changes from the team that made it four losses from their last five matches in all competitions against Brentford at the weekend. The large section of visiting fans made themselves heard throughout after arriving well before kick-off and were joined by the owner, Evangelos Marinakis, who opted for the directors’ box instead of behind the goal. Marinakis is expected back here on Sunday to watch his other team – Nottingham Forest – but will no doubt be hoping for a different result.
West Ham still have not been beaten at home in Europe since the semi-final of this competition against Eintracht Frankfurt in April last year. But having seen their 17-match run without defeat ended by Diego Martínez’s side last time out after Moyes rang the changes, they struggled to create much after a curling shot from Saïd Benrahma in the 12th minute. Alexandros Paschalakis was grateful that Nayef Aguerd’s header from the resulting corner was directed straight at the Olympiakos goalkeeper.
The visitors won against Arsenal on their two last visits to the capital in 2020 and 2021 in the knockout stages of the Europa League and, despite the best efforts of the graceful Paquetá, they managed to frustrate West Ham for large periods by slowing the game down. The groans from the home fans that greeted a poor piece of control from Mohammed Kudus on the half-hour mark summed up their struggles. A shimmy on the edge of the area from Benrahma then created space for the Algeria international to shoot but Paschalakis was equal to his effort.
The on-loan Wolves forward Daniel Podence could not direct his shot on target after a quick break down the left flank in the first opportunity for Olympiakos eight minutes before half-time.
Scoring goals has not been as much of an issue for West Ham so far this season but it is at the other end where they have had problems, with only the Premier League’s bottom four having conceded more. Olympiakos were happy to wait in their deep defensive block and try to pick off their opponents on the break, with the captain, Kostas Fortounis, wasting a promising position at the start of the second half when his cross drifted out of play. The former Manchester City forward Stevan Jovetic was withdrawn after an ineffective 55 minutes, although the 34-year-old looked as if he didn’t mind leaving behind such a low-quality game.
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Jarrod Bowen, who retained his place in the England squad announced on Thursday, almost inspired the breakthrough when he picked out James Ward-Prowse on the edge of the penalty area. But the former Southampton captain is still out of favour with Gareth Southgate and could only hit his shot into the ground, allowing Paschalakis to make the save.
Ward-Prowse made amends with the pass that set up Paquetá for his winning goal. The Brazil international timed his run to perfection to connect sweetly with the chipped ball over the Olympiakos defence and an enormous cheer greeted confirmation that the goal would stand after it had initially been ruled out for offside. “There was fire in our bellies,” said Ward-Prowse. “Tonight is a huge win for us and the first step in gathering some momentum.”
The substitute Ayoub el-Arabi almost made Lukasz Fabianski pay for a handling error late on before Mady Camara struck a post with a volley from a tight angle five minutes from time. But Moyes was able to celebrate at the full-time whistle as West Ham’s European adventure rolls on.