West Ham celebrate stadium opening by easing to victory
PUBLISHED: 21:49 04 August 2016 | UPDATED: 21:49 04 August 2016
PA/Press Association Images
West Ham sweep past Slovenians into Europa League play-off round
West Ham United 3 Domzale 0 (West Ham won 4-2 on aggregate)
It was an opening night to remember for the claret and blue fans in a sell-out crowd at London Stadium as the Hammers lifted the curtain on their new stage with a comfortable victory.
Cheikhou Kouyate stole the show with an historic first-half double – back-heeling home the first-ever goal on new soil after eight minutes and then netting a second midway through the opening period – before a late Sofiane Feghouli strike confirmed West Ham United’s place in tomorrow’s Europa League Play-Off draw.
Just 86 days after bidding a fond farewell to the Boleyn Ground, it was soon like a home from home as a defiant burst of Bubbles broke out around the new arena at kick-off and, knowing that only a win would suffice, following last week’s shock 1-2 defeat in Ljubljana’s Stozice Stadium, the Hammers quickly set about the task in hand.
Slaven Bilić made two changes with Darren Randolph and Reece Oxford coming in for substitutes Adrian and Pedro Obiang and the Croatian’s tinkering soon paid off as West Ham United clawed themselves level on aggregate inside the opening eight minutes.
Enner Valencia’s mazy run took him to the left side of the NK Domžale area but with his path to goal blocked by a defensive duo, the Ecuador international cut back to supporting Sam Byram, whose low ball towards the edge of the six-yard box, saw Kouyate claim that little piece of Hammers history with a cheeky back-heel into the net.
As the claret and blue fans celebrated the first-ever goal in their new abode, NK Domžale knew that they now faced an uphill struggle to stay in the competition.
Last week, Matic Črnic’s fearsome first-leg double had put his side in the driving seat but with the Slovenian striker predictably retaining his starting spot in an unchanged Brigands line-up, it was proving to be a miserable start to life in London, compounded by an early booking for felling Feghouli.
And after Valencia saw his low 18-yarder saved and Andy Carroll’s attempted bicycle kick was blocked, the Hammers made it yet worse for the visitors, when he doubled their lead on 24 minutes.
This time, Michail Antonio’s never-say-die determination to rescue a skidding ball on the right touchline led to the West Ham wide-boy floating a deep cross towards the head of Carroll and, with Lucas Mario Horvat desperately trying to get to the nod down, he just could not prevent Kouyate from stabbing an angle eight-yarder across the face of Axel Maraval into the far corner.
Two Kouyate goals to the good - and now 3-2 ahead on aggregate – the Hammers looked in control against downbeat Domžale, who had mustered just one wayward Žan Majer long-ranger but as the half-hour mark approached, the red-faced Randolph found himself back-pedalling to field a speculative, looping header from Antonio Mance.
Eight minutes before the break, though, Kouyate should have been carrying the matchball back to his locker, when Antonio burst down the left, once more, and unselfishly squared to the edge of the six-yard box but, faced with the simplest of tap-ins, the Senegal stream-roller was robbed by the sliding Àlvaro Brachi who cleared over his own crossbar.
From the resulting corning the Hammers just could not force the ball home in a dizzying spell of penalty-box pinball and, as Valencia sliced wide, Jure Balkovec was cautioned for dissent before Antonio also saw yellow for crocking Črnic.
At the other end, Antonio almost made amends for that rush of blood when he let fly with a 20-yarder that Maraval finger-tipped aside and, as the interval arrived, Carroll sliced over from similar range.
Just after the restart Marko Alvir and Črnic forced Randolph into saves, while Zeni Husmani and Elvis Bratanović replaced Horvat and Mance but the Slovenians were holed up in heartbreak hotel against a Hammers side now simply looking to get to the final whistle without injury.
Valencia embarked on some lively raids forward, while Feghouli - looking to break at any opportunity – twice sent efforts inches beyond the base of Maraval’s right-hand post.
Kouyate departed to a standing ovation with a quarter-hour remaining as Obiang entered the fray and the applause was soon ringing around the ground again, when skipper Mark Noble released Feghouli with a searching pass on 81 minutes.
Sprinting from midway inside the Domžale half, the accelerating Algerian chested the ball down, held off Balkovec and fired past the helpless exposed Maraval to cement that place in the Play-Off draw, before collecting a booking for lifting his jersey onto his head in celebration of his first Hammers goal and then retiring in place of young Domingos Quina but by now the curtain was ready to fall on that first-night performance.
HAMMERS: Randolph, Nordtveit, Byram, Reid, Oxford, Noble, Kouyate (Obiang 77), Antonio, Feghouli (Quina 87) Valencia, Carroll (Fletcher 90). Unused subs: Adrian, Burke, Page, Cullen.
BRIGANDS: Maraval, Brachi, Horić, Črnic, Horvat (Husmani 61)l Dobrovoljc, Balkovec, Majer (Juninho 76), Alvir, Morel, Mance (Bratanović 67). Unused subs: Milić, Vetrih, Repas, Blažič.
Booked: Črnic (3), Balkovec (38), Antonio (41), Horić (47), Feghouli (82), Valencia (90+2).