West Ham United are in firm control of Group B in the Europa Conference League after super-sub Gianluca Scamacca scored a vital winner against Anderlecht.
The Italian’s clinical finish made it three wins from three in the group stages for the Hammers. They have effectively now got one foot in the knockout stages.
The £35m summer signing did the damage shortly after coming on but they should have had the game wrapped up before his goal in the 81st minute.
David Moyes’ side wasted a host of chances, with Said Benrahma guilty of several glaring misses, but they got the job done and return to London unscathed ahead of Sunday’s derby with Fulham.
Moyes made nine changes to his side from the one that beat Wolves on Saturday and after a quiet opening 15 minutes, the game burst into life as both sides had chances within a minute.
Anderlecht had the first opportunity as they cut the Hammers open down the right and the ball fell to former Wolves striker Fabio Silva, but his goalbound shot was blocked by his team-mate Francis Amuzu.
Moments later Benrahma thought he had scored for the visitors as a loose ball fell to him at the far post and he picked out the top corner but Amadou Diawara made an important goalline clearance with his head.
Benrahma had two more chances before the break, first as he saw an effort blocked from Vladminir Coufa’s cutback and then skying a glaring chance when Jarrod Bowen put it on a plate for him after a surge down the right.
The former Brentford attacker had another effort shortly after the restart when he shot straight at goalkeeper Hendrick Van Crombrugge.
Scamacca, Lucas Paqueta and Declan Rice were introduced after 70 minutes and nine minutes later the former pair combined to break the deadlock.
Paqueta teed up his team-mate, who controlled, turned and found the bottom corner in clinical style.
Having barely been tested, Alphonse Areola produced a brilliant save to keep West Ham in front in the final 10 minutes as Silva, who struggled to find the net at Molineux, thought he had scored with a powerful header but the Frenchman denied him with a brilliant reflex save.
It is likely that Rice would have been unhappy about being on the bench. He stated in the build-up to th game that he “likes to keep playing”:
“There’s a World Cup coming up, but the focus is West Ham because we need to push up the table,” Rice said at the pre-match press conference.
“Sometimes it’s a luck thing whether you get injured, but I try to keep myself as fit and healthy as possible away from the pitch.
“I want to play as many games as I can. I like to keep playing, to keep the momentum building. That’s where the confidence lies and last season that was key for me.”