David Moyes branded Declan Rice West Ham’s “Roy of the Rovers” after his memorable solo goal helped them to the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.
Hammers skipper Rice scored a goal Roy Race, the comic book hero of Melchester Rovers, 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 return ball off Lucas Paqueta and ran fully 60 yards, evading two challenges before slotting the ball home.
“Certainly it was a fabulous individual goal,” said Hammers boss Moyes.
“It was a Roy of the Rovers goal. You dribble, you beat somebody, you do it again and you go on and score. He’s some player, he’s got great ability and that goal just summed him up tonight.
“If anyone didn’t think he could do that then they’re completely naive. He’s some player and that’s why we value him so highly.”
The night did not start well for West Ham after Hugo Cuypers bundled Gent into a shock lead after they were gifted possession by Paqueta.
Said Benrahma had scored West Ham’s spot-kick in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal but Paqueta was adamant he was taking it.
“They must have had a good discussion, because we scored,” smiled Moyes.
Rice’s wonder-goal put West Ham 3-1 up and Antonio added a fourth with a drive from the edge of the area.
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 huge football man and I don’t know when West Ham last had back-to-back European semi-finals,” said Moyes.
Europe has been the one bright spot in a tough season for the Hammers, who are still embroiled in the Premier League relegation battle.
“If you look back at what pulled this club back together, it was qualifying for Europe two years ago,” said Moyes.
“The run has kept everybody positive in what’s been a difficult season. The Premier League is the priority, but we’ll enjoy this one tonight.”