Hammers Suffer Pain In Spain

All is not lost for West Ham United in the UEFA Europa League. They may have lost 1-0 against La Liga side Sevilla at The Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium in the first-leg of their round of 16 tie on Thursday night, however, a plus point for the Hammers is that they are still in with a chance, as there is the second-leg to come in Stratford next Thursday.

David Moyes made two changes from the team that narrowly lost at Liverpool six days ago with Alphonse Areola starting in goal, while Łukasz Fabiański took his place amongst the substitutes, along with Darren Randolph. Declan Rice also returned in midfield, having recovered from illness. Ryan Fredericks was back in the matchday squad for the first time since sustaining a groin injury in the 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle United last month.

Dan Chesters and Sonny Perkins kept their places on the bench, while there was also a place for Freddie Potts.

This was West Ham’s first ever European knockout match and to be fair, it wasn’t a bad performance. Although it was difficult for them to gain possession in the opening stages, they eventually got to grips with their opponents and found a way into the game.

Evidence of this occurred when the Paris Saint-Germain loanee was tested by Youssef En-Nesyri, before his second effort was blocked by Ben Johnson.

Munir El Haddadi and Marcos Acuña tried their luck but also saw attempts go wide.

The visitors were awarded a free-kick after Joan Jordán had handballed and Manuel Lanzini sent the set-piece over. Rice then headed it on but when it came to finishing the chance off, Nikola Vlašić sent a header straight at home goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. Michail Antonio might have put the rebound into the net but the former Nottingham Forest winger missed his kick and the chance had gone.

The home side then started to apply the pressure but thankfully, Areola wasn’t troubled by any of their efforts.

There was then action at both ends but, neither El Haddadi, nor Vlašić were able to find the net.

Just before the break, Pablo Fornals went close with a volley but he couldn’t find a way through the home defence who were still standing firm.

West Ham must have been pleased to have held the team that were former winners of this competition and they were just hoping that they could produce the same sort of performance in the second forty five minutes or, better still, take an advantage back to East London.

The Hammers had a great chance to go in front after the restart. Tomáš Souček sent a powerful effort towards goal, only for Bounou to match it with an equally impressive save. To be fair, that was probably the clearest chance of the game for the visitors.

Just as in the first half, the hosts again tried to reassert themselves and went on to open the scoring on the hour mark. Acuña’s clever free-kick drifted over the West Ham defence and El Haddadi ghosted in unmarked to volley home with a glorious first-time strike.

Moyes made his first change seven minutes later as Vlašić was the man to make way for Saïd Benrahma. It seemed to be an inspired move as West Ham had further chances. They went close through Fornals but unfortunately for the midfielder, his shot was well blocked. Lanzini also tried his luck but he could only shoot wide.

The Irons were fortunate not to be further behind, as Sevilla were still posing a threat and were inches away on two separate occasions courtesy of Lucas Ocampos but they could breathe a sigh of relief, as he should have really done a lot better.

With seven minutes of normal time to play, Moyes brought on a second substitution, as Mark Noble entered the fray for Lanzini.

Five minutes of stoppage time were signalled and the travelling support might have seen Antonio grab a late equaliser but, like so many of their efforts throughout the contest, his effort was also blocked.

Arthur Masuaku was involved in the matchday squad for the second time in five days and before referee Sandro Schärer blew the final whistle, the Democratic Republic of Congo defender was introduced for Fornals.

There will be some atmosphere in Stratford next Thursday as the East Londoners will look to overturn this deficit and book their place in the quarter-finals of the competition. Before then though, it is back to Premier League action on Sunday afternoon and a home game with Aston Villa.