Seville 1 West Ham United 0
Thursday, 10th March 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
It's advantage Sevilla in the Europa League, the Spanish side taking a 1-0 lead into the second leg as West Ham left themselves with a mountain to climb.In a balanced game, both teams had chances, but once more The Hammers were wasteful with theirs, whilst the Spaniards put one foot in the quarter-finals after lax defending allowed Munir to volley his side ahead in the second half. It could have been worse for Moyes' side in a second half that at times saw them looking disorganised and panicked, but it could have been so different too had Vlasic or Lanzini taken the big chances that fell their way.
In the end, at the halfway point of this tie, West Ham are still in this and will go back to the London Stadium knowing they can still go through. There was much to take confidence from in their performance at the Ram??n S??nchez Pizju??n Stadium.
As expected, Rice returned to the side after his illness at the weekend and Jarrod Bowen didn't travel, nursing the injury from the Liverpool game. Vlasic started down the right over Benrahma, whilst Areola continued as the cup goalkeeper.
There was good news in the warm-ups too, Sevilla star Ivan Rakitic injured as the two sides prepared. West Ham would need every little advantage they could get against the best defence in La Liga, Julen Lopetegui's side unbeaten in the league at home as they sit second in the table behind Real Madrid.
They may not be a Barcelona or Real Madrid, but the Spaniards have won this competition six times, becoming almost synonymous with Europa League success since the rebranding from the UEFA Cup.
The first five minutes looked worrying as the home side controlled the ball and forced West Ham back. An early chance for Munir was headed wide and Sevilla would find it easier than many to get crosses into the West Ham box and find a man than any other team Moyes's West Ham have faced this season. Munir and En-Nesyri both threatened in the air and made space between the centre backs well.
It took a burst of pace and running from Antonio to wake West Ham up, finding a pocket of space with the ball in the Sevilla half and driving at goal. Down the right side of the area, he was forced into a shot from a tight angle that didn't really threaten goal.
Having struggled to get hold of the ball in the first five minutes, it was the away side who then dominated the next five, with Sevilla unable to get out of their own half as West Ham hunted high up the pitch for the ball and won it back multiple times.
The aggressive defensive play nearly earned them the lead. Winning a freekick on the right side of the Sevilla half, a ball to the far post was headed back across goal perfectly by Rice and into the path of Vlasic. He stooped low to head, concentrating all his will on the force he needed to finish the move, but as he powered it at goal, his header was far too central and was saved by Bounou. The Croatian should have scored, with anything even nearly on the way to a corner enough to beat the goalkeeper. Antonio fumbled the rebound and Sevilla cleared.
Five minutes later, Antonio collected a poor clearance and clipped a ball into the box that Soucek could only poke at goal. Sevilla, whose defence had been spoken of so much pre-game, had weaknesses that West Ham had the ability to expose. But as with the weekend defeat at Liverpool, it's finishing that matters most.
Sevilla were prone to wasting chances too, Munir guilty of taking a shot far too early when passed into space as he strode into the area. Not long after, En-Nesyri found the gap between Dawson and Zouma, but could only head close to Areola.
It was an entertaining half, Vlasic with an attempt just turned wide by Bounou after a fantastic header down by Antonio as both sides threatened to break the deadlock. Going in 0-0 at half-time, every result felt possible as West Ham proved they could mix it on this big stage with a tournament heavyweight.
The Hammers started the second half sharply, Soucek stinging the goalkeeper's palms with a drive from the edge of the box after good play from Johnson and then Antonio. The striker was doing a great job for his side, working the centre backs of Sevilla, running channels and using his body and some smart touches to make chances for the midfielders pushing forward to support him. Johnson had played well too, a very good defensive play with some useful contributions higher up the pitch, although he again showed a lack of confidence on occasion when unsure how to play down the line.
That strong start to the half was undermined by tentative and inaccurate play at vital moments around the Sevilla box. Fornals, who had defended well and passed smartly in the first half, seemed to lose his edge and his radar went with it.
As those attacks fizzled out, Sevilla grew into the game once more. Around the ten minutes into it, they took full control and would soon score.
It was a silly goal to give away. First West Ham were careless with the ball deep in their own half. After failing to find a quick way out on the left, Sevilla put the pressure on and Fornals, Lanzini and Cresswell failed to deal with it. Caught on the ball and with no obvious option, Fornals tried a pass through the Sevilla forward's legs and into Zouma. He did the first part, but it was short of Zouma and forced the Frenchman to lunge in to try retrieve the ball. He brought the man down, and from their own possession West Ham suddenly were forced to defend a dangerous freekick.
From the Sevilla right, the left-footed ball seemed sure to bend in at goal. The West Ham defence thought so, all rushing back to their own six-yard box as the ball was delivered.
But the routine was smart, Munir hanging back as all the runners went at goal and the ball was delivered straight to him in yards of space a few yards inside the box and the Moroccan connected perfectly on the bounce to guide an effort across goal and low into the far corner as Areola stood beaten and with no chance. Both Dawson and Rice looked back to the gap they had left to run back to goal, but only the West Ham players will know who should have stayed with their man.
From here, Sevilla could have torn West Ham apart in a ten-minute spell that saw the away side rattled by the pressure they were under. The home side were at it, flying forward and hounding their opponent's every touch of the ball. They could have scored again, a chance opening up in the box that was snuffed out fantastically by a sliding Kurt Zouma. Moments later it was Areola at his most alert, a shot from a tight angle close to catching the goalkeeper out but for a firm hand and a sharp reaction to guide it over.
There was nothing but a struggle for West Ham and the manager turned to his bench. Vlasic was replaced, his moments of promise in the first half not coming in the second, and Benrahma was brought on. With the side struggling to keep possession and being swarmed by the Spaniards, his recent critics may not have been happy to see the Algerian step into play.
To his credit, and Moyes's too, it was his introduction that sparked the side back to life and forced the home team to retreat. He picked up the ball in pockets of space as Sevilla rushed forward and ran directly at them. He may not have worked back to defend, but he caused his opponents to take a step back and that relieved a lot of pressure on his side.
He was the man to create the last big chance of the game too, making his way down the right and to the byline just inside the box. His cutback was deflected but right into the path of Lanzini in the centre of goal, about eight yards out. He set himself and shot, only to be denied by a fantastic block from Jesus Navas. The former Manchester City winger is a right back these days, and kept his side ahead with a goal-saving intervention.
Sevilla settled for their lead and sat back, with West Ham pushing forward yet holding a firm shape, aware that this tie is only at the halfway point. A late goal on the counter could well have put the game to bed before the second leg. Mark Noble came on to add a controlled passer deep into midfield and allow Soucek to push further forward, but the score wasn't to change.
It was a game effort, the Hammers in the game throughout and, aside from a ten-minute spell around their goal, Moyes's clearly Sevilla's equals. The chances were balanced, and it was once again that lack of cutting edge in front of goal that was most costly. It's not over, but a miserly defence will not be beaten by sloppy finishers. Come next Thursday, it will take a monumental performance to go through.
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Player RatingsAlphonse Areola
Absolutely nothing he could do on the goal, but he made some potentially awkward efforts look simple with good positioning and a clever reading of play, whilst the save down the right-hand side from the angle was exceptionally sharp reactions.
A touch tentative in possession, but such a sharp defender. His crossing was better than it has been in many of his appearances this season, and in the highest profile match of his career, Johnson showed how good a defender he is.
Set-piece delivery wasn't there, and it was really just an average game for the left back. Has been better in possession.
The better of the two centre backs, his quality much more evident. Grew into it after the team's shaky start, looked assured with the ball and then made a huge challenge to stop what looked a goal.
A little bit short of the required quality, or so it felt. He's one of those at the back post for the freekick, so can take some fault, whilst sloppy passes and a lack of pace were exposed a couple of times.
Quietly efficient game from Rice. Did a solid job defensively, but could not quell the hectic panic around the side when Sevilla scored. Didn't impose himself on the match on the ball.
Drove forward, got in and around the box in support, made runs down the right wing, was solid in midfield, kept possession much better than usual. It might make Rice quieter, but we do look more dangerous when he is supporting Antonio.
A good first half was followed by a messy second half. Lost accuracy and composure with his passing, then tried to be too clever in his own defence when it needed to be cleared. He defended well in the first 45, but a sharper attacking performance would have seen West Ham score, and a smarter defensive performance in the second half might have meant a clean sheet. Margins.
Took a lot of responsibility for the ball and was sharp. Should have scored, but the block on his effort was phenomenal.
In an attacking sense, Vlasic was probably more dangerous than he's been before. He got into the game in the first half and seemed to enjoy when he was close to Antonio. He seems to have a very good awareness to play off a striker, which is another reason to want to see him in behind Antonio in this system. Drifted out of the game as it went on and is not a good defender.
Worked hard, tested the Sevilla defence, created chances for others. Antonio continued his form, another really good leading man performance.
(Replaced Vlasic, 66) For the energy and the big chance he created, it was a huge plus. But the way his inclusion changed the game, forcing Sevilla back, may have stopped this being a bigger score in the home side's favour.
(Replaced Lanzini, 82) Solid enough. Kept the ball, showed for the ball. A Mark Noble cameo.
(Replaced Fornals, 90) On for about 30 seconds.
Did not play.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini, Nikola Vlasic, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Craig Dawson 32 .
Booked: Ryan Fredericks 21 Pablo Fornals 90 .
Sent off: None.
Subs not used: .
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Craig Dawson.