Mohammed Kudus bags brace as five-star West Ham ease to Europa League last eight

By Sports Desk March 14, 2024

David Moyes took the handbrake off West Ham and watched them race into the last eight of the Europa League with a 5-0 win over Freiburg.

Hammers boss Moyes uncharacteristically named an attacking line-up in a bid to repair the damage of the 1-0 first-leg defeat in Germany last week.

He was rewarded with a sparkling display as goals from Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen, Aaron Cresswell and two from Mohammed Kudus – including a sensational solo effort – secured a 5-1 aggregate win and a place in a European quarter-final for a third-successive season.

As a consequence the Hammers may have also done some of their Premier League rivals a favour, with the result pushing England ahead of Germany in UEFA’s coefficient rankings, which could mean an extra spot in Europe next season.

Despite some indifferent domestic form, West Ham – last season’s Europa Conference League winners – seem to come alive on these European nights.

Two years ago, at the same stage of the same competition, they memorably overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Spanish Europa League specialists Sevilla.

There were fears that that crackling atmosphere might be difficult to recreate, with many fans unable to make the match due to the unusual 5.45pm kick-off time.

But the London Stadium was still almost full and it erupted after just nine minutes as Freiburg saw their advantage wiped out.

Cresswell swung in a third-successive corner, Tomas Soucek stooped to flick the ball on and the unmarked Paqueta slid it in at the far post.

Just after the half-hour mark, West Ham had their second as Bowen celebrated his latest call-up to the England squad in style, shrugging off the attentions of Freiburg captain Christian Gunter before lashing home from 20 yards.

Freiburg still posed a threat, though, with Roland Sallai firing across goal and wide just to let West Ham know the tie was still very much in the balance at half-time.

That lasted until six minutes into the second half, when Bowen’s square ball across the box was deflected out to Cresswell, lurking on the edge of the area.

The left-back, who was the fall guy in Frankfurt two years when his red card in the semi-final against Eintracht cost West Ham dearly, took a touch before leathering the ball inside the far post.

The best was still to come, despite there being little sign of danger when Kudus picked the ball up deep inside his own half.

The former Ajax wideman sprinted around 70 yards, slicing through the heart of the Freiburg defence before casually rolling the ball into the net.

No wonder Kudus felt the need to borrow a photographer’s stool and sit down in front of the delirious home fans as his team-mates celebrated around him.

The rest had clearly done Kudus good, as he promptly collected Bowen’s lay-off and dispatched a low drive from 20 yards to complete West Ham’s five-star display.

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