Rapid Vienna 0 West Ham 2: Hammers clinch crucial top spot to avoid giants in Europa League last 32 after convincing win
WEST HAM got the job done with victory over Rapid to seal top spot in qualifying and a place in the last 16 of the Europa League.
Two goals late in the first half set the Hammers on course for the win which ensured they topped Group H and avoided a play-off tie against a Champions League team.
With Borussia Dortmund already dropping down and the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid also in danger, safe passage is a major boost for the London club.
And it ensures boss David Moyes has the luxury of resting all his big players in the final match next month with the club in the middle of a hectic run of fixtures through to the new year.
It takes their run to four wins and one draw in Europa - not bad for a club enjoying their first experience in the group stages of the competition.
Needing a win to be certain of top spot, Moyes was able to leave Michail Antonio at home and rest Declan Rice on the bench with one eye on Manchester City on Sunday.
But even a makeshift team was too strong for Rapid, denied the chance to play in front of a sell-out and passionate home crowd by the lockdown in Austria.
Jarrod Bowen squandered an early chance to open the scoring when he slid wide after six minutes and Nikola Vlasic then sent shot just over the bar.
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But the goal their dominance deserved arrived six minutes before the break when Vlasic clipped an inviting cross in from the left where Andriy Yarmolenko rose to head home.
The Ukrainian had struggled for his form until that stage, but his impact on the game was huge as in the last minute of the half he won a penalty.
The forward was clipped on the edge of the box and veteran Mark Noble was able to fire home his first Europa League goal.
West Ham barely needed to get out of second gear for the remainder of the game but still had chances to extend their lead.
Tomas Soucek and Bowen were both denied by close range blocks by Paul Gartier – and 17-year-old sub Sonny Perkins was denied a debut goal with his first touch by a point black save from the Rapid keeper.