Another First-Leg Defeat In Germany

On the two previous occasions that David Moyes has faced Bayer Leverkusen in competitive matches, he has come out on top both times but on Thursday night, his West Ham United side will have to turnaround another deficit as they lost 2-0 at Bay Arena.

With Edson Álvarez and Jarrod Bowen missing through suspension and injury respectively, two changes were made from the side that came from behind to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers five days ago, as Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio came into the starting line-up in their places. With Alphonse Areola still unavailable due to a groin injury, two goalkeepers were named on the bench, as Jacob Knightbridge and Joseph Anang were named on the bench along with other youngsters such as George Earthy, Lewis Orford, Divin Mubama and Kaelan Casey.

Xabi Alonso’s men were looking to go forty two games unbeaten here so the Hammers knew that it would be a battle to get anything from this game and it proved to be so as within three minutes of the action getting underway, Vladimír Coufal rose highest to meet a free-kick from James Ward-Prowse but was unfortunate to receive a blow to the head in the process. Thankfully though, he was able to continue.

Whilst the home side were putting their opponents under pressure, the visitors were showing their resilience by not making it easy for them to make the breakthrough. Łukasz Fabiański did superbly to keep out a clever flick from Patrik Schick. Had the Pole not been alert to the danger, a low effort from Josip Stanišić would have beaten him.

The Irons then had a great chance up the other end when a great team move involving Antonio and Mohammed Kudus should have seen the Ghanaian open the scoring after the Jamaican had shrugged off a defender and set him up perfectly by putting the ball across goal. However, the winger only sent a weak shot straight at home goalkeeper Matēj Kovář.

Almost immediately after that passage of play had ended, the Bundesliga leaders were back in the ascendancy but they were still unable to capitalize, as Fabiański again showed more heroics to thwart Amine Adli when he sent in a curling effort. That attempt didn’t deter the Moroccan international though as he tried his luck again but fortunately for the travelling contingent, Tomáš Souček deflected it over the top.

Another spell of pressure came from the home side but they were still unable to break the deadlock. After Schick’s header had failed to bring a save out of Fabiański, while he did manage to deny Álex Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong who was hoping to finish the opportunity at the back post.

Midway through the half, Lucas Paquetá received a booking which now means that he is suspended for next week’s all-important second-leg.

Fabiański was called upon again to save Schick’s powerful attempt after he had got in behind the West Ham centre backs but thankfully the chance came to nothing. Shortly after, Edmond Tapsoba tried to get his name on the scoresheet but again, the Pole was in the way.

Antonio fashioned West Ham’s next chance with thirty six minutes gone but he was unable to locate Paquetá when he sent a cross over which was aimed for the Brazilian.

Moyes would have been pleased with the fact that his team had stuck to their game plan during the first forty five minutes but the question was could they hold on and take the tie back to East London goalless?

The positive news for the Irons in the early stages after the break was that they were still in the match but the downside was that referee Artur Dias gave defender Emmerson Palmieri a yellow card for a challenge on Adli, meaning he will also miss next week’s meeting in Stratford.

Ward-Prowse then tried to put the hosts under pressure again when West Ham were awarded a free-kick but it came to nothing and Alonso’s men were soon back on the front foot.

Fabiański was proving to be in imperious form here, as he kept out both Schick and Jonas Hofmann who had come on in the seventy sixth minute in place of Adli.

The home side had certainly had the better chances in this match and their pressure finally paid off with seven minutes of normal time left to play. A poor clearance from Irons’ Captain Kurt Zouma was pounced upon by Hofmann and the Hammers’ defence was finally breached.

With time running out to find an equaliser, Moyes made a double change on eighty six minutes. He withdrew both Konstantinos Mavropanos and Kudus and replaced them with Nayef Aguerd and Ben Johnson.

The home fans might have been celebrating another goal soon after but thankfully, a combination of Aguerd and Souček managed to produce crucial blocks to deny Leverkusen skipper Jonathan Tah.

Three minutes had been added to the end of the game and Alonso’s men made sure that they had a healthier advantage to take into the second-leg when Victor Boniface gave the Irons plenty to think about.

Before turning their attention back to the Germans, they have a Premier League game at home to Fulham to occupy their minds on Sunday afternoon.