David Moyes was left licking his lips at the prospect of how just good West Ham could be after they announced themselves on the Europa League stage with a 2-0 win at Dinamo Zagreb
Goals from Michail Antonio and Declan Rice gave the Hammers a comfortable victory on their debut in the group stages against a seasoned European side.
“I was really pleased with the way the players played,” said Moyes. “Zagreb have a really good history in European football so I knew it was going to be a tough game and the players were made aware of that.
“It’s something new for us, certainly to someone like Declan Rice who’s played for his country but not in Europe for his club, so it’s something he’s going to have to get used to as it is for most of the players here.
“I’m really excited about the prospect of slightly not knowing how good they could be. We brought in some new players tonight and didn’t look any the worse for it.
“Bigger challenges will come and my target is still to still be in Europe after Christmas, when other teams come in. It’s only one game, but the players are in a good place.”
Antonio opened the scoring in the 22nd minute thanks to a shocking backpass which will give Jesse Lingard flashbacks to his error earlier this week.
Kevin Theophile-Catherine was the guilty party with Antonio onto the loose ball like a flash, poking it past stranded goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic and rolling it into an empty net.
England midfielder Rice doubled the lead five minutes into the second half, bursting through a challenge on the halfway line and surging forward before lashing a shot through Livakovic’s legs.
It was a goal which smacked of a player whose confidence is building and building following his heroics with England at Euro 2020.
“I think what he’s tried to do is take himself to the next level,” added Moyes. “He’s a terrific player and he’s getting better.
“He’s captain of West Ham, for the first time in Europe and he’s scored a goal which made the game a bit more comfortable.
“He’s still only 22, he’s a young boy with a big future. It’s one step at a time, but he’s doing really well for us.
“The ability to surge away from people, his power and speed, is a great trait. He gets a bit of ribbing for not scoring enough goals so he’s beginning to stand up a bit now.”
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