West Ham Utd’s last match at the Boleyn Ground against Manchester Utd turned out to be a heart-stopping affair which worked out in the end. So to was their first match at the new London Stadium. Despite first leg woes , it was alright on the night.
Bubbles bounced across the turf at the packed new stadium and suddenly, with 50,000 serenading the display it felt like home.
A turn-around performance by the team helped with an eventual 3-0 winning scoreline sufficient to see off plucky Slovenians NK Domzale and, perhaps more symbolically, make a winning start to life in Stratford.
Symbolism was everywhere in a stadium draped with large pictures of heroes and claret and blue but perhaps the most poignant signal that life moves on was the a JCB parked outside the Boleyn Ground, once graced by Rolls Royces and Porsches.
The king is dead, long live the king.
On the pitch it was man-of-the-match Cheikhou Kouyate who gets his name in the books as the first competitive scorer in the Olympic Park. Eight minutes and nerves were settled. Another at 25 put the home team in front in aggregate.
Sofiane Feghouli, one of the stars of a stuttering pre-season, put matters beyond the reach meaning the Hammers enter the draw for the Europa League stage on Friday (August 5) with 43 other clubs.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic who had previously expressed concerns that the London Stadium wouldn’t match the Boleyn for intensity concluded: “It’s loud.”
He said “It was difficult psychologically for us but for the stage we are at we played really well. We were fit, aggressive and played good football.
“We could have scored more goals, but it was a very mature performance. We played badly in the first leg but a week later we are fresher and closer to the season.
“I didn’t know what the atmosphere would be like. This was the first time we could judge it and it was more than I expected. It’s loud.”
We want five
Slaven Bilic was without Euro 2016 stars Dimitri Payet, James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna and together with injuries to Aaron Cresswell and Manuel Lanzini, it showed up some shortfall in the squad.
A left-back and a striker are now the priorities with Bilic wanting to sign five players.
"Basically we have five games before the September international break and this squad is not big enough. Hopefully we will have a minimum of five players to add to this squad."
Meanwhile, they have an unexpected player among their number as Diafra Sakho's move to West Brom fell through on fitness worries.
"I'm a bit surprised with that," said Bilic. "He's our player, he's contracted to us and could be a great player. That's all I can say about it.
"I am a bit sorry for him and a bit surprised that he didn't pass the medical."