Declan Rice was once again at his best last night as West Ham took a big step to a European final

Declan Rice oozed quality in West Ham’s semi-final.

West Ham came from behind to secure a hard-fought victory over AZ Alkmaar in their Europa Conference League semi-final first leg.

The Irons produced an extremely drab and inspiring opening 45 minutes, which allowed the visitors to take the lead thanks to Tijjani Reijinders’ rasping long-range effort.

The second half continued in the same vein before former Brighton goalkeeper Matt Ryan recklessly collided with Jarrod Bowen to concede a penalty.

Said Benrahma gleefully dispatched the resulting spot-kick and the comeback was completed when Michail Antonio stabbed in the second from a corner.

Unsurprisingly, one player who kept in his head throughout the evening was Declan Rice, who was a pillar of solidity, calmness, and technique in the centre of the park.

How did Declan Rice perform against AZ Alkmaar?

Earlier in the week, it wasreportedthat the hierarchy will only entertain offers over £100m for their club captain, who delivered a splendid performance.

The 24-year-old – who was once hailed as a “machine” by BBC contributor Raj Choban –managed70 touches with 93% pass completion, which included two key passes, and four accurate long balls.

This contributes to a wider perspective of his precise passing, which is showcased by the fact that he ranks in the top 26% in Europe’s top five leagues among his positional peers for progressive passes, averaging 6.28 per 90, according toFBref.

The pivot also provided huge help to the defensive effort, which meant that the Dutch outfit barely threatened in the latter stages of the match. He recorded a mammoth four tackles, the most in the Hammers starting line-up, and won five ground duels, as perSofascore.

Across the campaign, the41-capinternational has averaged2.3tackles per game, the second-highest in the squad.

Attributes such as this have led pundits, including Sky Sports’ Danny Cowley, to describe the skipper as“world-class”, who is set to be thesubjectof a fiercely competitive transfer saga.

After his formidable showing against Manchester United, the£60k-per-weekstar is theonly playerin Europe’s top five leagues with over 30 interceptions, clearances, take-ons competed, aerial duels won, shots, as well as winning back possession more times than anyone else (322).

The Englishman’s physicality and leadership, coupled with the stunning dribbling and chance-creation ability of Benrahma, make for a potent combination for David Moyes.

The Algerian was also in imperious form and deeply troubled his opponents, reflected by hisfoursuccessful dribbles.

Both these players will be absolutely imperative as the east Londoners bid for their first European trophy since 1965.

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