Jarrod Bowen helped West Ham beat Cypriot side AEK Larnaca to reach the last eight of the Europa Conference League – and then admitted he needed to improve his form to regain his England place.
Bowen struck twice at the beginning of the second half to take his overall tally to eight across two European campaigns as he became the Hammers’ leading European goalscorer.
It came a few hours after the 26-year-old forward had been left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine later this month.
“I’ve done nothing to get in there,” said Bowen, who played four times for England in June 2022, but was not included in the Three Lions squad for the World Cup in Qatar in November.
“It’s one of those things, these things take care of themselves.
“It’s not about getting in squads, it’s about playing my ‘A’ game, finishing strongly and going again next season.
“I always want to score and goals have not been coming this season, but I accept that. I will always give my all for the club.”
- The victory equalled West Ham’s biggest in Europe as, for the second season running, they reached the quarter-finals of a European competition.
However, this success was far removed from the memorable and nail-biting extra-time triumph over Sevilla in the last-16 of last season’s Europa League.
Two down from the first-leg, Larnaca were outclassed at the London Stadium as the Hammers strolled to victory.
The Cypriots gifted the opening goal to Gianluca Scamacca and then had Gustavo Ledes sent off just before the break for a poor challenge on Pablo Fornals that was upgraded from a yellow card to red following a video assistant referee intervention.
Bowen took the home side further clear. His second in particular was impressive as he looped a header from Aaron Creswell’s cross over the Larnaca keeper and into the corner for his 10th goal of the season, although only four have come in the Premier League.
West Ham’s victory was rounded off by 18-year-old local boy Divin Mubama, who has been with the club since he was eight and scored his first senior goal on only his third first-team appearance.
Scamacca looking to kick-start his Hammers career
For Scamacca, goals in successive starts would be an achievement worth talking about had it not been for the fact they were split by two-and-a-half months, during which time the Italian has had to combat a knee injury, struggled with form on his return and, according to Moyes following the draw with Aston Villa, returned physical data that “has to get much better”.
There are worrying echoes of another number nine, Sebastian Haller, who became the club’s record signing when they committed £45m to his transfer in 2019, only to sell him to Ajax for less than half that sum 18 months later after failing to adapt to the Premier League.
That Haller went on to be a success and join Borussia Dortmund 18 months after that suggested the problem was not entirely his.
Scamacca now has eight for the season. The 24-year-old knows Larnaca goalkeeper Kenan Piric should have kept his low shot out. Instead, the Bosnian let the ball inexplicably roll under his body and into the net.
Sometimes though, a bit of luck can work wonders and Scamacca also claimed the assist for Bowen’s first, with a shot Piric parried into the path of the England man, who drove home first-time from an acute angle.
West Ham can only hope the Italian’s confidence will have been boosted sufficiently for him to make a positive impact on the club’s ongoing battle against relegation.
He certainly looked in a good mood as he joked with Said Benrahma on the bench after he had been replaced as Moyes made changes with the tie secure.
West Ham attentions turn to Premier League
While Europe has offered some respite in what has been a season well below expectations domestically, Moyes knows it is the Premier League where his immediate priority must lie.
As West Ham do not have a game this weekend but the three sides immediately below them are playing, there is a good chance they will be in the relegation zone by the time they resume their season against bottom club Southampton on 2 April.
It is not a situation anticipated after successive top-seven finishes and explains why doubts remain among the fan base over Moyes, even if owner David Sullivan remains solidly behind the Scot.
“It will be some time off for the players then we get ready to go again,” said Moyes. “It’s a really important period coming up – we have a lot to look forward to.
“The result in Cyprus a week ago made a big difference. I wanted to get the goal to put it to bed and we blew them away in the second half.
“I’m really pleased. It’s not something that happens every year and I’m pleased for the players and the football club and delighted to say I’ve got to two [European] quarter-finals in two years.”
Moyes did offer a glimpse of the future late on. Among the substitutes was 19-year-old Freddie Potts, son of legendary West Ham defender Steve, who made more than 500 appearances in his 17 years with the club.
Potts junior bore a striking similarity to Declan Rice in the way he patrolled the central midfield areas, which could be handy given doubts over the England man’s future at London Stadium.
“It’s great when you give players the opportunity to play,” added Moyes. “Becoming a professional player is really difficult and you’ve dedicated your career since eight or nine years old to get to this level.
“Divin, with his energy and running, excites every time and Levi [Laing] and Pottsy [Freddie Potts] also came on.
“Hopefully it inspires the rest of the academy that if you’re good enough you will get your chance.”