Hammers must find some inner strength to achieve the improbable

Brian Jeeves
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West Ham United v Eintracht Frankfurt – UEFA Europa League semi-final first-leg – London Stadium – Report

West Ham United 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt

West Ham United will require another massive UEFA Europa League away performance after German outfit, Eintracht Frankfurt recorded a narrow semi-final first-leg victory at a raucous London Stadium.

I think it’s fair to say, both times David Moyes has taken charge at West Ham, the very thought of the Hammers competing in the last four of any European competition was seen as quite absurd. Nevertheless, the Scotsman insisted he had the belief that occasions such as this weren’t as far out of reach as some might have thought.

“When I first returned, I honestly thought if I could get it going, I’d get a team challenging around the top of the league. That’s what I planned,” he explained.

“I think for most of my career, I’ve been closer to that than the bottom, even though I’ve come back a couple of times to take over a team near the bottom, but I always felt if I could get a chance to get it done.

“On that journey, you need to make sure your recruitment is good. We signed a couple of Czech boys on the journey who have been brilliant for us, and we took Jarrod Bowen from the Championship, who’s gone on to do great things. Sometimes you need bits of that for all those things to happen.

“Is it by luck, by plan or by design? I hope it’s a bit of all of them. Sometimes it doesn’t always go right when you’re a manager, and for the majority of managers it’s very difficult, but I always felt that if I could get it going here, I could get a team challenging.” 

Moyes sprung a surprise in his line-up – Kurt Zouma returning following an injury picked up during the recent Premier League defeat at Brentford, Eintracht sprang one of their own, Rafael Borré centred – Ansgar Knauff heading beyond Alphonse Areola with less than a minute on the clock. A conundrum for Moyes and his men.

Eintracht already looked slick and comfortable. Keeping the ball stretching the contest against an already shellshocked opponent. The crowd did their utmost to lift their jaded charges – Jarrod Bowen agonisingly close to providing the perfect tonic. His attempt came back off the foot of an upright after Tomas Soucek had sent him clear.

But just after the twenty-minute mark, the London Stadium exploded. Michail Antonio was on hand to finish from close range, just ahead of Declan Rice, after Manuel Lanzini’s free-kick had been headed back across goal by Zouma. Stratford, quite literally, shook!

West Ham, now snapping and snarling, had found their feet. Nevertheless, they survived a scare when Knauff turned and fired over after Borré again had created an opening. 

Soucek perhaps should have done better, firing wide after Antonio had picked him out immediately after the restart. But the Eintracht response was swift and decisive. Areola saved Filip Kostic’s close-range effort only for Daichi Kamada to return the pieces with interest – The Germans back in front.

Moyes replaced Lanzinin with Said Benrahma – The Algerian a whisker away from levelling the score with a curling effort from distance. But West Ham’s toil, honest as it was, appeared tired and a yard off the pace. Kamanda looked to punish the East Londoners further. His deflected shot thumped a post, much to the home sides’ relief.

In the final minutes, Benrahma fashioned an opening for Bowen which was deflected behind. Then the former Hull City man struck the underside of the bar with a spectacular overhead kick after Rice had clipped into the box.

The tie certainly isn’t over, but Moyes must somehow conjure another masterplan similar to the one that landed his side here following that emphatic victory in Lyon just a fortnight ago.

West Ham United return to Premier League action on Sunday, May 1 when Arsenal visit the London Stadium (4:30pm).

West Ham United: Areola, Johnson, Dawson, Zouma, Cresswell, Rice (Capt), Souček, Lanzini (Benrahma 66′), Bowen, Fornals, Antonio Subs not used: Fabiański (GK), Randolph (GK), Coufal, Yarmolenko, Vlašić, Noble, Fredericks, Masuaku, Král, Alese, Chesters

Booked: None

Goals: Michail Antonio 21′

Eintracht Frankfurt: Trapp, Tuta, Hinteregger, Touré, Rode (Capt), Sow, Knauff, Lindstrøm (Hauge 62′), Kostić, Kamada, Borré (Ache 90+2′) Subs not used: Grahl (GK), Horz (GK), Hrustic, Lammers, Hasebe, Chandler, Hauge, Da Costa, Lenz, Barkok, Gonçalo Paciência

Booked: Sow (foul), Hinteregger (foul) 

Goals: Ansgar Knauff 1′, Daichi Kamada 54′

Referee: Serdar Gözübüyük (Ned)

Assistant Referees: Joost van Zuilen and Johan Balder (both Ned)

Fourth Official: Tasos Sidiropoulos (Gre)

VAR: Pol van Boekel (Ned)

Assistant VAR: Dennis Higler (Ned)

Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk