Second-Leg Magic Needed Again

It will be another second-leg job for West Ham United as they head to Germany next Thursday, having lost the first-leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final 2-1 to FFV Eintract Frankfurt in Stratford.

David Moyes welcomed back Declan Rice, Michail Antonio, Jarrod Bowen and Manuel Lanzini after all were rested for last weekend’s game at Chelsea, while Kurt Zouma and Alphonse Areola were also included with Łukasz Fabiański, Ben Johnson, Vladimír Coufal, Mark Noble, Arthur Masuaku, Saïd Benrahma and Andriy Yarmolenko all dropping to the bench.

Also amongst the substitutes were youngsters Ajibola Alese and Dan Chesters.

As was the case in the home matches against both Sevilla and Olympique Lyonnais, the atmosphere was once again cranked up but after just fifty one seconds of the match, the ever-loyal fan base were stunned as Ansgar Knauff finished off a great team move to beat Areola.

West Ham then piled on the pressure in an effort to find a quick response with Tomáš Souček heavily involved. Firstly, he sent a header wide from Lanzini’s free-kick, then he set up Bowen who beat the visiting defence to test goalkeeper Kevin Trapp with a well-struck effort which came back of the post. The Czech wasn’t finished there however, as he then headed the ball over following Johnson’s cross.

Both teams were making a real game of it by this point and after Areola did well to hold onto Jesper Lindstrøm’s volley, the Hammers went straight up the other end and were awarded a free-kick. Lanzini again took responsibility and the set piece was headed on by Zouma who then found Antonio and he put the ball past Trapp, giving him no chance and sending the home faithful ballistic.

Both sides had chances to take the lead into the break but neither Filip Kostić, nor Knauff could find a way past Areola, while Souček was also off-target for the hosts.

When referee Serdar Gözübüyük blew the whistle for the break, even though the home side fell behind early, they were determined not to let it affect them and see if they could build on their equaliser in the second-half.

Souček had been in the thick of the action so far but the trouble was, nothing was going in for him and it happened again here when he headed Antonio’s cross wide.

Within minutes of him missing that chance, the visitors were ahead again. Despite Areola doing well to save from Djibril Sow, Daichi Kamada was there on the follow-up and the Frenchman was once again beaten.

Moyes made a change on sixty six as he brought on Benrahma.

Pablo Fornals missed a great chance to level the scores again as his attempt trickled wide, then just minutes later, Benrahma nearly made the desired impact but saw his shot hit the bar.

Kamada could have settled the tie even with the second-leg to go but Craig Dawson managed to deflect his attempt onto the post.

In stoppage time, West Ham were ever so unlucky not to level matters as Bowen’s overhead kick came off the underside of the bar following a cross from Rice.

With that, the final whistle was blown and before they can hope to recreate the magic of previous Europa League encounters in order to reach the final, they must face a Premier League home game with Arsenal on Sunday afternoon.