West Ham boss Slaven Bilic revelled in the atmosphere generated within the London Stadium as the Hammers marked their first match at their new home with a commanding Europa League victory over Slovenian minnows NK Domzale.
Two first-half strikes from Cheikhou Kouyate and a late third from new signing Sofiane Feghouli ensured West Ham avoided any first night slip-ups in front of an expectant 54,000 crowd at the former Olympic Stadium.
West Ham progressed to the Europa League’s play-off round and have one more hurdle to clear before reaching the group stage of this season’s competition. The Hammers will be one of 44 clubs in today’s draw, which includes 15 losers from the Champions League third qualifying round.
The scoreline mirrored the 3-0 success West Ham enjoyed against Millwall in their opening fixture at the Boleyn Ground in 1904 and after 112 years at Upton Park Bilic was content to start the new chapter in the club’s history on a positive note.
“The atmosphere, I wasn’t worried about but I didn’t know. You heard it at the Olympic Games and the Rugby World Cup, I wasn’t at those games,” said Bilic. “This is the first time we could check it and it was more than I expected. it’s a good atmosphere, it’s loud. You can feel the fans.
“It’s a good feeling. We’re not over the moon because of the level of the opponent. We’re not going to go over the top with our performance but if we stay like this that’s very good.”
Bilic, meanwhile, confirmed that West Ham fans should expect a flurry of transfer activity before their opening Premier League fixture against Chelsea on 15 August. He added: “The squad is not enough. We will hopefully have a minimum of five players added to the squad before the start of the Premier League.”
It took just eight minutes for West Ham to net the first goal at their new ground and level the aggregate scores. Kouyate produced a deft flick to send the ball beyond Domzale goalkeeper Axel Maraval from Sam Byram’s low ball into the penalty area.
West Ham secured the lead for the first time in the tie quarter of an hour later, just as the visitors were hinting at an equaliser, as Kouyate bagged his second of the night by prodding home an Andy Carroll knockdown.
Despite Maraval denying Michail Antonio with a finger-tip save shortly before the break, Domzale still carried an attacking threat and a goal for the visitors could have potentially sent the match into extra-time.
But West Ham avoided the need for a tense finale as Feghouli produced the knockout blow inside the final 10 minutes when he darted into a Mark Noble pass and drove a low past Maraval to settle matters.