David Moyes has dubbed Declan Rice West Ham’s ‘Rovers’ Rovers’ after his memorable solo goal helped them reach the Europa Conference League semi-finals.
Hammers captain Rice scored a goal Roy Race, the Melchester Rovers comic book hero, would have been proud of as they beat Belgian side Gent 4-1 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate.
The England midfielder won the ball in his own half, took the ball back from Lucas Paquetá and ran a full 60 yards, evading two challenges before conceding the ball home.
“It certainly was a terrific individual goal,” Hammers boss Moyes said.
“It was a goal from Roy for Rovers. You dribble, you beat someone, you do it again and you go on and score. He’s a great player, he has great skill and that goal summed it up tonight.
“If someone thought they couldn’t do that, then they are completely naive. He is a player and that is why we value him so much ”.
The night did not start well for West Ham after Hugo Cuypers gave Gent a shock lead after Paquetá gifted them possession.
Michail Antonio equalized with a header near the post before the break, and Paquetá made amends with a penalty after a tap from Joseph Okumu.
He said Benrahma had scored West Ham’s penalty in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal, but Paquetá insisted he was taking it.
“They must have had a good argument, because we scored,” smiled Moyes.
“Paquetá takes a lot of penalties in training and has an ‘interesting’ style. He makes it stressful for the manager.”
Rice’s great goal put West Ham 3-1 up and Antonio added the fourth with a shot from the edge of the box.
The Hammers will face Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in their second successive European semi-final, having reached the same stage in the Europa League last season.
“I’m a big football man and I don’t know when West Ham last had back-to-back European semi-finals,” Moyes said.
“Big credit to the players, they have done a fantastic job. We won the group last year, we won the group this year and we beat some big teams. But Gent made it difficult for us.
Europe has been the only bright spot in a difficult season for the Hammers, who are still embroiled in the relegation battle from the Premier League.
“If you look back, what brought this club together was qualifying for Europe two years ago,” Moyes said.
“The streak has kept everyone positive in what has been a difficult season. The Premier League is the priority, but tonight we will enjoy it”.