Hammers Europa dream floored by Frimpong 

Brian Jeeves

West Ham United v Bayer 04 Leverkusen – UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final – Second-Leg – London Stadium – Report

West Ham United 1-1 Bayer 04 Leverkusen

(Bayer 04 Leverkusen won 3-1 on aggregate)

West Ham United’s hopes of a third-successive European semi-final appearance were dashed by Bayer Leverkusen, despite providing a battling performance that deserved somewhat better.

Despite trailing from the first leg, Hammers boss, David Moyes remained bullish: “When you’re getting words like quarter-finals, semi-finals, it’s exciting,” the Scotsman enthused. 

“Obviously, the final is what you want to get to – and win it – but you have to go through the process to get there.

“It will be a difficult, difficult game, but one we’ve got belief that we can find a way to try and make it.”

Moyes was handed a boost with the return of Jarrod Bowen following a nagging back injury. However, goalkeeper Alphonse Areola remained sidelined due to a hip issue, while Lucas Paqueta and Emerson missed out through suspension.

Against a side unbeaten all season and having clinched the Bundesliga title for the first time in their history a week previous, progression was always going to be a tall order for the East Londoners. Nevertheless, Moyes’ men were given a raucous welcome from an audience largely in hope rather than expectation.

But within the opening quarter of an hour, Jarrod Bowen picked out Michail Antonio to nod the East Londoners ahead, sending the London Stadium into delirium and shockwaves through their German visitors, whose first-leg lead had suddenly been halved.

West Ham United’s Michail Antonio heads his side into an early lead against Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the London Stadium (Rob Newell CameraSport)

It was frantic stuff. Bayer stopper Kovář clung on desperately to Mohammed Kudus’ deflected attempt, while Antonio sent another headed effort into his gloves after James Ward-Prowse and Bowen had fashioned an opening.

Kovář somehow thwarted Bowen with his feet. The Germans were certainly feeling the pressure. Antonio and Jonathan Tah found themselves in the book following a melee, initially orchestrated during ugly scenes pitchside which saw Hammers coach, Billy McKinlay red-carded along with a member of the Bayer entourage by under-siege Spanish referee José María Sánchez.

While West Ham were controlling the game, Bayer still held an advantage overall. Florian Wirtz scuffed horribly wide after half-time substitute Jeremie Frimpong had dashed forward and centred. Indeed, the Germans appeared altogether more structured after the break. Although Bowen passed up a glorious chance to level the tie after seizing on some hesitant defending just before the hour.

Lukas Fabianski was forced into an unorthodox save to keep out Frimpong’s cheeky, angled effort. For the first time on the night, West Ham were on the back foot. The crowd became agitated, the mood wasn’t helped by some erratic decisions from whistler Sánchez, who seemed uninterested in several German assaults on the luckless Antonio.

Frimpong missed a golden opportunity to kill the tie after racing half the length of the field. Meanwhile, Sanchez continued to dish out cautions, much to the anger of the puzzled crowd, who let their feelings be known in no uncertain terms.

But with time running out, West Ham’s dream ended. Frimpong’s shot deflected wickedly off Aaron Cresswell, wrong-footed Fabianski and levelled the tie on the night, restoring their initial two-goal advantage. 

West Ham United return to Premier League action on Sunday, April 21, when they face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (3pm).

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal (Johnson 84′), Zouma (Capt), Aguerd (Ogbonna 45+2′), Cresswell, Álvarez (Cornet 84′), Ward-Prowse, Souček, Kudus, Bowen, Antonio Subs not used: Anang (GK), Knightbridge (GK), Ings, Mubama, Orford, Casey, Swyer

Booked: Antonio (foul), Bowen (dissent), Coufal (dissent), Zouma (dissent), Soucek (dissent), Álvarez (dissent)

Goals: Antonio 13′

Bayer Leverkusen: Kovář, Tah (Capt), Kossounou (Tapsoba 29′), Stanišić, Hincapié, Palacios, Xhaka, Tella (Frimpong 46′), Grimaldo (Adli 68′), Wirtz (Andrich 87′), Schick (Boniface 46′) Subs not used: Hradecky (GK), Lomb (GK), Hofmann, Arthur, Puerta, Izekor

Booked:  Kossounou (foul), Tah (foul), Kovár (time-wasting), Palacios (dissent), Adli (dissent)

Goals: Frimpong 89′

Referee: José María Sánchez (Esp)

Assistant Referees: Raúl Cabañero and Iñigo Prieto (Esp)

Fourth Official: Cesar Soto Grado (Esp)

VAR: Carlos del Cerro Grande (Esp)

Assistant VAR: Ricardo de Burgos (Esp)

Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk