David Moyes isn’t circling May 18 on his calendar. Not yet. Ask him and he’ll say that the final is too fanciful to consider. His aim is to make sure West Ham are still be in Europe after Christmas, simple as that.
At this rate Moyes will need to rethink that target pretty soon. It’s now three wins from three, and the last team to achieve such a feat in the Europa League group stage was Sevilla in 2019-20, when they won the competition.
This year’s final is in Seville but even as West Ham sit six points clear at the top of Group H, with seven goals scored and zero conceded, Moyes isn’t getting ahead of himself.
Craig Dawson (centre) provided West Ham their breakthrough against Genk to take a 1-0
Issa Diop heads home West Ham’s second goal from Aaron Cresswell’s cross from the left wing
Jarrod Bowen (right) extended the lead after unleashing a shot which the keeper couldn’t stop
Jarrod Bowen, however, having gone from non-League to the Europa League, doesn’t mind dreaming. ‘The main thing is topping the group,’ said Bowen, the scorer of West Ham’s third goal on Thursday night.
‘If we can stay strong, keep the confidence, then I think teams will be fearing us. We could be the team to look out for. We’re only a few games away from a big cup run.’
For the final half hour, West Ham were in cruise control, and why not? They’d earned it. Craig Dawson had scored with his shoulder and Issa Diop with his head, both of their defensive titans showing why Moyes’ side are so dangerous from set pieces. Bowen then made it 3-0.
Jarrod Bowen goes down after being stood on by Jhon Lucumi in a challenge for the ball
But the forward bounces back to bag West Ham’s third of the night in the second-half
With their next opponents Genk away in two weeks’ time, you see no reason why they cannot make it four wins from four. ‘It means everything,’ Bowen added.
‘Looking back and playing non-League, I remember scoring my first goal against Alfreton at (age) 16 or 17. Now to score in the Europa League is a dream. I’m loving every minute.’
WEST HAM (4-2-3-1): Areola 6; Johnson 7, Dawson 7.5, Diop 7, Cresswell 8 (Fredericks 67min, 6); Soucek 7, Rice 7.5 (Noble 67, 6); Yarmolenko 6.5, Lanzini 6.5 (Chesters 89), Vlasic 6.5 (Fornals 83); Bowen 7 (Benrahma 83).
Scorers: Dawson 45+1, Diop 57, Bowen 58.
Manager: David Moyes 7.
Referee: Donatas Rumsas (Lithuania).
As are the supporters. Thursday started with a slap on the wrist for the club – a £50,000 fine from UEFA for the crowd trouble which marred their win over Rapid Vienna three weeks ago. That saw missiles thrown from the away supporters and at them, while Declan Rice’s opening goal prompted a few visitors from Vienna to hop over the advertising hoardings.
There was little chance of controversy this time, with the 200 Genk fans in attendance surrounded by almost as many stewards in fluorescent yellow. They were a lively group, nonetheless, rocking up with a repertoire of chants which they had translated into English, including ‘Shall we sing a song for you?’
Genk had the ball in the back of the net first with Theo Bongonda scoring a diving header, but the assistant flagged it offside, much to West Ham’s relief.
Bowen, starting as striker, came close after 25 minutes when Ben Johnson cut the ball back into his path. The West Ham striker had the goal at his mercy but, from 10 yards, he produced an air-kick. A proper connection and it would have been 1-0.
Shortly before half-time, Aaron Cresswell crossed for Bowen. He improvised with a nice flick, but an even better save from Maarten Vandevoordt saw the score remain 0-0. Only momentarily, that is, because a corner moments later saw Dawson shoulder the ball into the goal. They all count.
No Premier League defender has scored more goals in all club competitions in 2021 than Dawson, who is now on five, level with John Stones. What a £2million signing he’s turned out to be.
Referee Donatas Rumsas disallows Theo Bongonda’s goal for offside to deny Genk the lead
Paul Onuachu misses badly from a squared ball but Bongonda is there to head home for Genk
West Ham’s best attacker in this game had comfortably been Cresswell. He was tireless in his charging down the left wing and had provided the cross for Dawson’s opener.
In the 57th minute, it was 2-0, with Cresswell swinging in a free-kick and Diop heading home. In the 58th, it was 3-0, with Bowen unleashing a shot which Vandevoordt couldn’t stop.
On came Mark Noble, the club captain who, born in 1987, is older than Genk, founded 1988. How he would like to help his club make it to the Europa League final in the season he’s retiring.
For now it’s three wins from three. Pretty easy, this European lark. At least West Ham are making it seem that way.
The defender rises to meet the corner kick and his header loops over the Genk players to go in
Genk’s Paul Onuachu (centre) has a free header at goal but it inches just over the top of goal
With three wins from three, David Moyes’ side sit six points clear at the top of their group
The Hammers celebrate after Diop’s header doubled their lead just after the restart
Relive all the action from West Ham’s 3-0 victory over Genk with Sportsmail’s ISABEL BALDWIN below…