West Ham qualified directly for the last 16 of the Europe League after a convincing 2-0 win over Freiburg at London Stadium saw them finish top of Group A.
Mohammed Kudus opened the scoring in 14th minute before Edson Alvarez’s strike just before half-time confirmed victory for the Hammers, who had started the match level on 12 points with their German opponents in the race for top spot.
David Moyes’ men bounced back after last weekend’s 5-0 Premier League mauling at Fulham to earn a seeded position in the knockout stages and avoid a play-off.
The hosts, chasing a 10th successive home win in Europe, came close to taking an early lead when Lucas Paqueta struck the Freiburg crossbar in the fifth minute.
A drop of the shoulder by Kudus saw the tricky attacker beat his man before delivering a cross to Paqueta who thundered his effort onto the bar.
However, West Ham’s persistence paid off barely 10 minutes later as they went ahead through Kudus.
Alvarez found the ball in midfield, picked his head up and delivered a lofted pass in behind the Freiburg defence for the Ghana international, who finished expertly past goalkeeper Noah Atubolu.
The goal was credit to the hosts’ early pressure and Kudus’ well-timed run and touch tested the VAR, who allowed the effort to stand despite calls for offside and handball.
Last season’s Europa Conference League champions looked eager to finish their opponents off quickly but Jarrod Bowen’s goal was ruled out for offside by referee Joao Pinheiro.
The England winger had got on the end of a similar ball to the one which had previously caught out the Freiburg defence, however he had failed to hold his line and the score remained 1-0.
At the other end, Freiburg, having already qualified from Group A alongside West Ham, rarely ventured as far as West Ham’s box until Ritsu Doan tested Lukasz Fabianski after 40 minutes.
But creator Alvarez turned scorer moments later to seal the tie.
The Mexican marauded forward with the ball and played a neat one-two with Bowen before finishing his work with a poacher’s finish into the bottom corner.
Freiburg showed a bit more fight in the second half through Doan, who rifled an effort at Fabianski, but it was West Ham who were in the ascendancy and looked more likely to strike the next blow.
Czech full-back Vladimir Coufal overlapped on the right flank and delivered a cut-back cross to Bowen who scuffed his effort over the bar instead of finding the empty net.
The dangerous Doan continued to be the only threat for Freiburg when he forced the save from Fabianski before substitute Noah Weishaupt’s rebounded effort was sliced over the bar.