Mohammed Kudus scores in his debut start for West Ham to help complete a comeback

3 min read
Mohammed Kudus scores in his debut start for West Ham to help complete a comeback

The night started off a bit embarrassing for West Ham even before the game began. There was a heavy storm, and it left parts of the London Stadium flooded. Some fans even made light of it, joking that it was a new waterfall feature to celebrate their return to the Europa League. But the laughter quickly faded as the game got underway.

West Ham, who had won the Europa Conference League just 108 days ago, found themselves in a tough spot. In the 47th minute, on a rain-soaked field, Angelo Ogbonna made a mistake and stumbled on the ball in his own half. This gave a golden opportunity to 22-year-old Backa Topola striker Petar Stanic, who took full advantage and scored a goal that any Premier League poacher would be proud of.

When Backa Topola first scored. Credit: AFP

Backa Topola, a Serbian side that has gone through numerous name changes since its founding in 1913, was participating in its first-ever elite European group stage match. Their small group of dedicated fans, about 100 of them, had traveled a long way – a 2,000-kilometer round trip – hoping to see some of London’s famous landmarks. Instead, they witnessed their team score a goal against West Ham.

Kudus scored to complete a comeback after first shot on goal led to on-goal. credit: Getty

The goal rattled West Ham, and their manager David Moyes was visibly upset, pacing along the wet sideline. But then, their Ghanaian star Mohammed Kudus came to the rescue. It was his first start for the club, and in the 66th minute, he managed to score, although there was some debate about whether it was actually an own goal by Topola’s left-back, Nemanja Petrovic.

Tomas Soucek scored to make it three. Credit: Getty

Just four minutes later, James Ward-Prowse delivered a perfect corner, and Kudus, who had been a £37.5 million summer acquisition from Ajax, headed the ball into the bottom corner. Ward-Prowse was on a roll, providing another assist from a corner with just eight minutes left, this time for the late substitute Tomas Soucek.

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West Ham had avoided humiliation and managed to maintain their momentum, but one question lingered: Why did it take them so long to find their form in the game? Maybe the wet conditions played a role, or perhaps it was the nine changes Moyes made to the lineup following their 3-1 defeat to Manchester City the previous weekend.

At the same time, there really was no excuse for their lackluster performance in the first half. They failed to put much pressure on the Topola goalkeeper, even though this was only the Serbian side’s third year of European competition.

Looking ahead, West Ham faces a tough match against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, and Moyes hopes that their lackluster performance in this game was just a temporary setback. After all, they had started their Premier League campaign strongly.

For this match, only Ward-Prowse and Lucas Paqueta retained their spots from the previous game, and Greek defender Konstantinos Mavropanos made his full debut. Edson Alvarez was unavailable due to a suspension for a red card he received last season while playing for his former club Ajax. Jarrod Bowen, who scored the dramatic winner in Prague in June, missed the game due to illness but was expected to be fit to face Liverpool.

During the first half of the match, West Ham sorely missed Bowen’s energy and creativity on the ball. It was only after Ogbonna’s error in the second half that the home fans finally saw some attacking intent. Kudus managed to score from Said Benrahma’s cross, and Ward-Prowse continued his impressive form with his fourth and fifth assists of the season in all competitions.

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In the end, West Ham had a bit of a scare but managed to secure the victory. There was a collective sigh of relief from the fans, who had endured a rainy and somewhat embarrassing night. Moyes and his team would need to regroup quickly as they prepared for the challenging match against Liverpool, hoping to build on their strong start to the Premier League campaign.

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