Moyes and Rice’s Loyalty to West Ham Pays Off with Conference League Quarter-Finals.

    David Moyes and Declan Rice enjoyed repaying West Ham fans after a difficult season as the Hammers advanced to the quarter-finals of the European Conference League on Thursday.

    A brace from Mihail Antonio and goals from Lucas Paqueta and Rice saw West Ham win 4-1 at home and beat Gent 5-2 on aggregate.

    This allowed Moyes’ team to reach their second continental semi-final in as many years, having qualified in the final four seasons of the Europa League.

    As West Ham struggle with relegation in the Premier League, just four points above the bottom three, Moyes hailed the Hammers’ achievement in balancing European football and domestic problems.

    He told BT Sport: “This is a brilliant achievement. Doing this two years in a row is special, it really is. It doesn’t happen often, so we’ll wait for the semi-finals.

    “It was hard for the fans [this year]. We have received so many positive things from European football that we have a great relationship with the players.

    “It was very important for us to reach the semi-finals. Gent gave us problems and we had to work hard to win.”

    Rice’s strike in the 58th minute put the Hammers in full control of the game after Paqueta’s and Antonio’s first goal put West Ham ahead after Hugo Cuypers’ first half.

    The West Ham captain echoed his manager’s sentiment, enjoying the impact the result could have on fans after a difficult season.

    Rice told BT Sport: “I can’t put it into words. Another semi-final in a row. The place was rocking and you could feel it. To score and the guys played very well, ah, it was the best night for the club.

    “In the last two games we didn’t start well, waiting for the teams to score to react. But when we reached this goal, we felt high and energized. There could have been six or seven in the second half.”

    As for his goal, driving through the middle line before breaking into the bottom left corner, Rice considers it one of his best results for the club.

    “When I intercept the ball in these positions and I have room to shoot, I feel good,” added the England midfielder. “Then I feel like I am at my best. It doesn’t happen all the time.

    “This is definitely one of my best goals for West Ham. I didn’t even know how to celebrate. I was so happy to score, not to mention it was like that, so it was special.”

    “Obviously the West Ham fans didn’t have much to be happy about this season, but tonight they will be happy and the smile on their faces is incredible.”

    West Ham will face AZ Alkmaar in the semi-finals after the Eredivisie team beat Anderlecht on penalties, who lost a 2-0 lead in the first leg.

    “AZ Alkmaar has had good momentum all year and has a good young team with a lot of new talent,” added Moyes.

    “It will be a very difficult game. For them, losing 2-0 and winning is a big achievement.”

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