West Ham 4-1 Gent: Rice, Antonio and Paqueta strike for the Hammers

West Ham 4-1 Gent (5-2 agg): David Moyes’ side storm into the Europa Conference League semi-finals as goals from Declan Rice, Lucas Paqueta and a Michail Antonio brace sees Hammers come from behind to win

  • West Ham secured their place in the Europa Conference League semi-finals 
  • Antonio, Rice and Paqueta were all on the scoresheet for David Moyes’s side
  • They move into the final four of the competition after beating the Belgian side

All the angst, all the bitterness, all the Saturday nights spent skipping Match of the Day this season. For a while, as Declan Rice slid on his knees and David Moyes danced down the touchline, all that disappointment disappeared.

West Ham, once again, are European semi-finalists. It may be in the Europa Conference League but then in this of all seasons, the Premier League strugglers cannot be picky about which competition they thrive in.

They are now three games from their first European trophy since 1965. Three games from Rice and Co cementing their names in this club’s history. Three games from Moyes leaving on the highest of highs, if he is indeed to leave in the summer.

They can feel ‘massive’ again – their formerly favourite word which has been missing from West Ham’s vocabulary this season – and Dutch side AZ Alkmaar await in the two-legged semi-finals.

It was a sublime second half which dismantled an organised Gent side here. Despite initially taking the lead, the Belgian visitors could not handle West Ham, with Rice scoring the pick of the goals after a surging run from his own half followed by a fine finish.

Declan Rice was on target for West Ham as they stormed past Gent on Thursday night

They wrapped up a 4-1 win to book a place in the Europa Conference League semi-finals

Brazilian midfielder Lucas Paqueta was also on target for the Hammers on the night

Gent’s Hugo Cuypers scored a consolation goal for the Belgian’s, who lost 5-2 on aggregate

Though fourth in the Belgian First Division, Gent gave West Ham enough of a game in last week’s 1-1 draw to display their danger, particularly from striker partners Hugo Cuypers and Gift Orban.


West Ham (4-2-3-1): Areola 7; Coufal 7, Zouma 7.5 (Kehrer 70, 6), Aguerd 7, Emerson 6.5; Soucek 6.5, Rice 8 (Downes 70, 6); Bowen 7.5 (Fornals 79), Paqueta 6.5, Benrahma 7 (Cornet 79); Antonio 7.5 (Ings 70, 6)

Subs (not used): Fabianski, Anang, Johnson, Cresswell, Lanzini, Potts, Mubama

Scorers: Antonio (37, 63), Paqueta (55 pen), Rice (58)

Manager: David Moyes 7.5

Gent (3-4-1-2): Roef 5; Piaskowski 6, Okumu 4.5, Fortuna 5; Samoise 5, Kums 5, De Sart 5 (Odjidja-Ofoe 70, 6), Castro-Montes 6 (Fofana 85); Hong 6 (Depoitre 70, 6); Orban 6.5 (Tissoudali 70, 6), Cuypers 6.5 (Godeau 84)

Subs (not used): Nardi, Hauge, Torunarigha, Van Daele

Scorers: Cuypers (26)

Booked: Orban

Manager: Hein Vanhaezebrouch 6

Referee: Orel Grinfeeld 5

Gent came here full of confidence, sure that one of their star strikers would score, if not both, though they also arrived late. Manager Hein Vanhaezebrouch wanted the game pushed back to 8.15pm. Sorry, said UEFA, but you’ve got enough time to get ready.

West Ham started strongly, but the same could also be said for their last two outings at the London Stadium. They imposed themselves on Newcastle and Arsenal, only to concede within 10 minutes in each match. Predictably, Gent should have taken the lead here after eight minutes when Sven Kums crossed from the right-hand side. It only needed a touch from Cuypers or Orban, who were both unaccompanied after dashing behind the statuesque defence, but West Ham survived.

Orban was involved in Gent taking the lead after 26 minutes, though it was a consequence of a Lucas Paqueta mistake. His poor pass was intercepted by Hyunseok Hong to leave the ball with Orban. After charging at West Ham, he crossed. Matisse Samoise’s scuffed shot then fell kindly to Cuypers, who made it 1-0.

West Ham’s fans reacted with a roar at the restart. They still believed. Rightly so, too, as their team won a wide free-kick after a handball by Alessio Castro-Montes in the 37th minute.

Set-pieces have not been the club’s forte this season, but this time, Michail Antonio headed in Jarrod Bowen’s cross at the near post for 1-1.

West Ham wanted a penalty in first-half stoppage time after Said Benrahma’s header was seemingly blocked by the arm of Samoise. We’ve seen them given. But not this time.

In the 49th minute, Tomas Soucek sent a shot crashing into the crossbar when Bowen’s ball across the box was begging to be buried. In the 50th, Benrahma teed up Bowen, whose attempt was saved smartly by Davy Roef.

West Ham were dumbfounded when they were not awarded a penalty for the clumsiest handball by Joseph Okumu. The ball had blatantly bounced from his knee to his outstretched arm and, thankfully, VAR Roi Reinshreiber righted the referee’s wrong.

Paqueta stepped up for the spot-kick and, bang, found the top-right corner beyond Roef’s reach for 2-1 after 55 minutes. It was 3-1 by the 58th and what a special feeling for Rice.

The club captain stole the ball off Kamil Piatkowski before bursting forward from his own half. He feigned to his right but went left, sending Okumu in a spin and slotting the ball beyond Roef.

David Moyes’ side are now within touching distance of winning a European trophy

The Hammers will face Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the semi-finals of the Conference League

Moyes went positively wild, turning to the supporters with pumped fists and a full smile.

In the 63rd minute, West Ham killed this tie once and for all. Orban dropped down in a bid to win a cheap free-kick but won nothing. Paqueta proceeded to spread the play out wide. Antonio could have left the ball to Benrahma but he wanted it himself, taking it inside and finding the top-right corner for 4-1.

Bowen thought he had gotten in on the act in the 71st minute, worming his way through the Gent box beautifully to score, but it was disallowed for an accidental handball. Shame, really, as his performance deserved his presence on the scoresheet.

Not to worry. The four goals were enough to take West Ham to yet another European semi-final for the second successive season. This could yet be a campaign to tell the grandchildren about.

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