West Ham roar past Freiburg with sensational Kudus brace sealing win | Europa League

The debate over David Moyes’s future has its latest talking point. Those fans who have been calling for Moyes to go have something to ponder after seeing West Ham’s charge into the last eight of European competition for the third successive season end with Mohammed Kudus decorating an emphatic triumph with a couple of special solo goals.

Entertaining enough? West Ham were outstanding as they swatted Freiburg aside, maintaining their interest in the Europa League by earning a 5-1 win on aggregate with a stirring comeback, and Moyes has to take much of the credit. Nobody could accuse the Scot of a lack of caution after he sent Kudus, Jarrod Bowen and Lucas Paquetá out to torment Freiburg’s defenders.

A more attacking line-up would repair the damage caused by a choked performance in the first leg. Michail Antonio, in for James Ward-Prowse, stretched and harried Freiburg’s centre-backs. Bowen, back on the right flank, was soon running at Christian Günter. Tomáš Souček and Edson Álvarez allowed Paquetá, who has spent much of the season on the left, to dictate play in the middle.

West Ham made an aggressive start, Bowen’s snapshot testing Noah Atubolu, and Freiburg’s advantage disappeared after nine minutes. Aaron Cresswell delivered a corner, Souček flicked it on and Paquetá scored after peeling off Vincenzo Grifo.

Such poor marking was not encouraging for Freiburg, even if they threatened an instant equaliser through Roland Sallai. West Ham, by far the more robust side, remained dominant. They should have pulled clear when Antonio rumbled down the right flank, defenders barrelled out of the way, only for Kudus to poke wide from the striker’s cutback.

West Ham were rewarded for their adventure after 32 minutes. Antonio made a nuisance of himself and Günter failed with an attempt to foul Bowen. The Freiburg captain fell to the turf and watched Bowen collect his 15th goal of the season with a shot that flashed beyond Atubolu from 25 yards.

Behind for the first time in the tie, Freiburg had to be bolder. The mood changed, West Ham inviting Freiburg forward. Lukasz Fabiański denied Grifo and Maximilian Eggestein before half-time.

Those openings were reminders of why Moyes tends to favour a more solid approach. Freiburg moved through the lines too easily at times. West Ham would use their knowhow to judge when to squeeze the space and when to push forward. Their fourth goal was a case in point. Freiburg were pushing when the ball broke to Kudus. The Ghana winger set off from inside his own half, surged through the middle and slid a shot past Atubolu after sashaying past the last defender.

Kudus is unstoppable in this mood. So direct and skilful, the Ghanaian rarely looks flustered. He moves at his own pace, his silky dribbling tormenting defenders, and he has a hammer of his left foot. His next contribution, a venomous shot from 20 yards, made it 5-0.

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West Ham had tightened their grip seven minutes into the second half, Bowen involved again, his cross cleared only as far as Cresswell. The veteran left-back, sent off twice during West Ham’s Europa League run two years ago, threaded a shot into the far corner.

The job done, Moyes removed Paquetá just after the hour. West Ham’s Brazilian trudged to the touchline and looked furious when he took his place on the bench. Yet Paquetá is just back from a long-term calf injury and it made sense for Moyes to protect him before facing Aston Villa on Sunday. West Ham, whose win boosts England’s hopes of beating Germany to an extra Champions League, need their main creative talent to stay fit if their season is to end on a high.

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