Having conceded seven goals in their previous two trips to England, the travelling Genk supporters may have been expecting an arduous evening, yet their side looked to have taken the lead after just nine minutes. Théo Bongonda was quick to react to Paul Onuachu’s mishit strike, with the Belgian winger bundling the ball across the line. The ‘Smurfs’ joy was short-lived, as replays showed Junya Ito had strayed offside in the buildup.
Relieved to have still been on level terms, West Ham increased their intensity and came close through Tomáš Souček moments later. Fresh from plastic surgery following a facial injury suffered at the weekend, the Czech international’s effort forced a sharp save from Maarten Vandevoordt in the Genk goal. However, the 19-year-old shot-stopper had no answer to Craig Dawson’s header just before the break, with the 31-year-old squeezing the ball home and ending what had been a frustrating half for the hosts on a triumphant high.
Much like the bubbles floating around the electric London Stadium, Genk were also blown away early in the second half, with West Ham scoring twice in as many minutes to put the game to bed. Cresswell’s delivery was once again on the money, this time for Issa Diop who glanced his header beyond a flailing Vandevoordt. Two quickly became three when Jarrod Bowen’s driving run ended in the 24-year-old’s first European goal – not bad for a man who was playing in England’s fifth tier seven years ago.
The son of Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup winner Erik Thorstvedt, Kristian, passed up a golden opportunity to net the first goal against the hosts in this season’s competition, yet his wayward effort ensured it would be another clean sheet for Moyes’ men. West Ham last met Belgian opposition 45 years ago in the 1976 Cup Winners’ Cup final and the ‘Hammers’ will now be hoping this current Europa League campaign leads to another opportunity for continental silverware.