Rapid Vienna fans’ missiles mar West Ham win sparked by Declan Rice
The attention should have lingered on those flashes of quality from Declan Rice and Saïd Benrahma. West Ham had settled a bitty contest with two fine goals and they had managed the game well during a testing second half, hiding their inexperience at this level by staying professional when a mediocre Rapid Vienna threatened to cancel out their slender lead.
Rice was a commanding presence in midfield, bursting forward to score the opening goal but never forgetting about his defensive responsibilities. Craig Dawson and Issa Diop were resilient in central defence and West Ham, who escaped when Rapid had a late penalty chalked off by VAR, knew that their position at the top of Group H was safe when Benrahma settled this unremarkable Europa League tie in added time.
On the pitch, at least, it was a good night for David Moyes’s side. Rice showed the progressive side to his game when he scored for the second time in as many outings in this competition. Dawson was excellent. Benrahma scored a beauty.
The focus should have been on West Ham, who are three points above Dinamo Zagreb, excelling in their first competitive home game in Europe since 2006. They did not deserve to have it stolen by Rapid’s supporters, who were more interested in fighting than in supporting their limited team.
Much of Rapid’s following were still inside the London Stadium long after the final whistle, brainlessly fighting police officers. Some West Ham fans had also stayed behind to goad the visitors and it was a while before order was restored.
There is bound to be a Uefa investigation, which could lead to sanctions for West Ham as they were at home. The warning signs had been there from the start. The mood was heated in the corner of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand housing the away contingent, both sets of fans throwing missiles at each other during the pre-match lights show, and it boiled over when Rice scored in the 29th minute, police forced to help the stewards stop Rapid’s fans from charging into the home end.
Some Rapid fans jumped over the advertising hoardings at the bottom of the lower tier and there was even the absurdity of someone chucking a water cooler at the West Ham fans. “We want to be a club in Europe regularly and because of that we need to behave correctly,” Moyes said. “I am not sure who started it but I was aware of it.”
Rapid’s manager, Dietmar Kuhbauer, had nothing to say about the disorder and the frustration was that the nonsense drew attention away from a smooth West Ham goal. There was a lovely ball from Andriy Yarmolenko to open Rapid up, clever movement from Michail Antonio to elude his markers and Rice ghosting forward to finish off the move.
Rice wheeled away gleefully after taking Antonio’s unselfish pass and tapping into the unguarded net. West Ham’s captain had batted away questions over his future before the game and the England international hardly looked unhappy as he celebrated with his teammates.
West Ham, who made seven changes after beating Leeds last weekend, had mostly threatened from set-pieces before going ahead. Rice and Dawson both headed against the woodwork after being found by Aaron Cresswell, who had bottles thrown at him when he took a corner near Rapid’s fans.
Joint-bottom of the Austrian Bundesliga, Rapid were poor. West Ham were comfortable, although they were not at their most coherent in attack. “We’re still learning at this level,” Moyes said. “But we were worthy winners.”
Moyes wanted more urgency in the second half. A weary Antonio made way for Jarrod Bowen. Manuel Lanzini replaced the disappointing Nikola Vlasic. Mark Noble, off the pace in midfield, came off for Tomas Soucek.
West Ham had fallen back and luck was on their side after they conceded a penalty with just under 20 minutes left.
The referee, Tobias Stieler, reversed his decision after consulting the pitchside monitor and seeing that the young right-back, Ben Johnson, made no contact with Marco Grüll when the Rapid substitute tumbled in the area.
Rapid’s fans held up an anti-VAR banner, but their team had nothing left to say. Bowen produced a comical miss at the other end and the final word went to Benrahma, cutting in from the left and teasing a clever shot past Paul Gartler.