Hammers thump Belgians to maintain 100% record in Europa League

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West Ham are proving head and shoulders above the rest as they move to the brink of a spot in the Europa League knockout stages.

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The Happy Hammers are loving their overseas adventure life as they took three out of three wins in Group H – needing just four points out of nine available to seal the top spot.

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West Ham centre-back Craig Dawson opens the scoring against Genk at London Stadiumcredit: AP
Dawson celebrates with Declan Rice after breaking the stalemate in first-half stoppage time

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Dawson celebrates with Declan Rice after breaking the stalemate in first-half stoppage timecredit: AFP

If the second game between Dinamo Zagreb and Rapid Vienna ends in a draw, qualifying can also be achieved if the return match is won in Genk within a fortnight.

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This time he didn’t rely on his impressive attacking stars to seal victory, with Issa Diop’s head and defensive partner Craig Dawson’s shoulders trumps.

Dawson opened the scoring in slightly lucky first-half stoppage time, before Diop connected full on with a powerful header 12 minutes after the break and kept them under control.

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And when Jarrod Bowen struck a crisp on the toe of his left foot within 60 seconds, all it needed was someone to kneel in the fourth home and the London stadium broke into a nursery song.

Bonkers as it may have seemed at the start of the season, the Hammers have made such an easy job of the Europa League that they will be a team to fear for the rest of the team when the competition gets serious after Christmas.

To prevent the collapse of gigantic proportions, of course David Moyes and his cheerful people are heading into the new year.

Issa Diop doubles West Ham's lead after completing Aaron Cresswell's delivery shortly after the break

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Issa Diop doubles West Ham’s lead after completing Aaron Cresswell’s delivery shortly after the breakcredit: Reuters
Defender Diop looks happy after scoring his first goal of the season

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Defender Diop looks happy after scoring his first goal of the seasoncredit: Reuters

Limitations in the Hammer squad mean Moyes doesn’t have the luxury of resting the entire team for European efforts like Tottenham.

So although London already had an eye on Sunday’s date with their bigger rivals, crucial Deccan Rice and Tomas Sousek needed to patrol midfield again.

With Michael Antonio’s fragile hamstrings, no such chance could be taken, especially on a cold night, so he was completely missing from the team on match day.

And although it was a relief for home supporters looking to put one on Spurs this weekend, it once again exposed the biggest weakness in this emerging team – the lack of a viable striking option beyond the Jamaica international.

So it played out in the first half where West Ham often found themselves in good positions but lacked the extra injection of momentum needed to get behind the Genk defence.

Jarrod Bowen is seen as the best back-up option, and although willing and lively, he currently lacks the killer instinct to make the most of the many good positions he finds himself in.

Three times he snatched the scoring to open opportunities and three times he was found wanting – the worst coming with a wild aerial shot when Ben Johnson picked him just six yards from goal.

Unlike Dinamo Zagreb and Rapid Vienna, the lack of penetration was increasingly disappointing considering Genk had really come out and presented attacking problems on his own.

Jarrow Boyd gave the hosts a 3-0 lead 60 seconds after Diop went home

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Jarrow Boyd gave the hosts a 3-0 lead 60 seconds after Diop went homecredit: getty
Bowen proved to be a live figure for West Ham throughout Group H

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Bowen proved to be a live figure for West Ham throughout Group Hcredit: Reuters

There were early warnings from the start, with the Belgian first having a Theo Bongonda header in the eighth minute as Jujanya Ito was just offside in the build-up.

And when keeper Alphonse Arriola made a hash of claiming a cross that allowed giant striker Paul Onuachu to loop the header inches wide, alarm bells were ringing.

But Hammer, who stuttered in the first minute of stoppage time before the break, managed to get the breakthrough thanks to defender Dawson.

On the run, Aaron Cresswell’s corner met the center-back big to the left, and the ball went off his shoulder and fell into the top corner.

West Ham were a different team in the opening 15 minutes of the second half as they kicked up a gear – and within a minute two goals sealed the victory.

Genk’s defense is loaded with heavyweights, but even that set-piece wasn’t enough to stop Kings West Ham as Criswell’s free-kick from the left was buried under the bar by French defender Diop .

David Moyes fields a strong team ahead of Sunday's home match against rivals Tottenham

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David Moyes fields a strong team ahead of Sunday’s home match against rivals Tottenhamcredit: Reuters

With the Belgians on the rack, the hammers went for the lugs and within a minute of the restart they were home and dry when Bowen finally found his shooting boots.

The visiting defense stood up as he cut forward from the right side, driving a low shot through keeper Maarten Vandevordt’s body into the net.

The job was done – and Moyes had to afford the luxury of hooking up commanding Rice immediately to save him for the further fight against Tottenham.

Michael Antonio showed his skills in training

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