In a thrilling opening UEFA Europa League match, West Ham demonstrated resilience and skill as they came from behind to secure a 3-1 victory against TSC Backa Topola, with Mohammed Kudus playing a pivotal role.
The well-organized Serbian side managed to frustrate West Ham during the first half. However, it was TSC Backa Topola who struck first in the second half, taking the lead after Angelo Ogbonna’s rare error allowed Petar Stanic to seize the ball and calmly slot it into the net.
West Ham swiftly pulled level when Said Benrahma’s fine work on the left-wing led to Nemanja Petrovic inadvertently diverting the Algerian’s cross into his own goal, with Kudus applying pressure.
Kudus continued to shine, heading in a James Ward-Prowse corner just four minutes later, propelling the hosts into the lead. Subsequently, substitute Tomas Soucek mirrored Kudus’ feat in the closing stages, sealing the victory with a 3-1 scoreline.
While West Ham ultimately secured a routine victory, the match underscored the competitiveness of TSC Backa Topola. Substitute Michail Antonio came close to adding to West Ham’s tally twice, emphasizing the challenge presented by the Serbian side.
With this victory, West Ham now occupies the top spot in Group A, edging ahead of Freiburg on goal difference following the Germans’ 3-2 win over Olympiacos.
West Ham manager David Moyes made nine changes to the starting lineup, with an entirely new back four and goalkeeper. While Moyes had praised West Ham’s depth before the match, the new faces delivered a somewhat sluggish and occasionally careless performance that may not have met the manager’s expectations. Notably, James Ward-Prowse and Lucas Paqueta, the two survivors from the weekend’s Premier League match, emerged as among West Ham’s standout performers.
Ward-Prowse’s set-piece delivery consistently created scoring opportunities, resulting in two goals. It could have easily been a hat-trick of assists for Ward-Prowse if Antonio or Ogbonna had been more precise with their headers.
West Ham recognizes the importance of squad depth as they aim to excel in both the Europa League and the league. The performance against TSC Backa Topola, although not without its challenges, serves as a valuable lesson and a reminder of the demanding matches that lie ahead.