Europa League
West Ham United 1 Lyon 1

Thursday, 7th April 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham will go to France level in the tie after a 1-1 draw at home with Lyon in the first leg of this Europa League Quarter-Final. The draw ended up a good result after an Aaron Cresswell red card just before half-time completely changed the complexion of the match.

A scruffy Jarrod Bowen was cancelled out by a tap-in for on-loan Spurs man Tanguy Ndombele in a second half underlined by dogged and resilient defending, and David Moyes will be delighted with the bravery his team showed to keep themselves alive in the tie against cynical and experienced opponents.


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That they are still in the tie is entirely down to the battle-ready defensive instincts of so many of this team, most notably Craig Dawson who gave a warrior's display in the second half to follow an opening 45 in which he was instrumental with his range of passing from defence.

Other notable performances came from the hardworking Fornals and Soucek, with the Spaniard the other influential passer in the first half. Soucek was brave, energetic and strong, and although he continued to make the simple look spectacularly hard with some wayward passing, the Czech midfielder made crucial interventions in his own box and out into midfield as David Moyes' side protected their goal whilst managing to fight through with ten men on the field.

The manager was rightly disappointed in a first half in which his side seemed too wary of their opponents and a little overawed by the occasion. The win against Sevilla was a momentous task, but here they seemed unsure how to make the play in the context of a two-legged affair. Lyon at no point looked anything remotely special, and indeed looked much shorter on quality than Sevilla, but a red card cam change the momentum in any match.

Areola again started in the West Ham goal and will feel his evening was easier than expected. He barely made a save, and Lyon will have left the London Stadium aggrieved that they failed to make their man-advantage count.

That was the only change from the weekend's victory over Everton, and the slow play from Sunday's win remained.

They did push forward to press Lyon high up the pitch often in the first half, but found Lyon happy to make no progress if they kept the ball. It was only their goalkeeper who missed the memo, trying multiple diagonal passes out of goal that lost his team the ball.

West Ham only really came alive when they went direct and long, Dawson's raking passes across the field to Benrahma setting the Algerian away at pace. The first chance of the game came from this, Benrahma taking down a long pass and making his way into the box, before a firm shot from a tight angle was saved.


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Antonio was lively, and dominant aerially too, combining well with the runners off him to win clever flicks and knock-ons. But there was little to get the heart racing in a frankly dull opening half hour. The crowd was awoken a little by a clever corner routine that led to a Rice shot on target, and soon again for the wrong reasons as Rice tried a clever header back to his defence in his own half and completely misjudged it. Thankfully, a shot from range was deflected wide for an eventful corner.

West Ham had let the game drift to this point, and Lyon were enjoying it. Whatever they expected of West Ham was clearly not on show. The home side missed the calming influence of Manuel Lanzini on the ball, and whilst Benrahma threatened to be dangerous, he flattered to deceive.

The Algerian is a player of immense talent, and this game underlined why he is so Marmite to West Ham fans. At times he would beat a Lyon player not once, not even twice but thrice, yet the end product didn't follow. He bewitched his full back on numerous occasions, only to get the pass wrong or take the wrong touch. He is moments from brilliance, but so often that last step seems so close and ends so far from happening. The promise excites some, the fundamentals of using the ball frustrate others.

Still, Benrahma did have the pace and energy that a lot of his teammates were missing, and it took Fornals at least 20 minutes before he went more central and found his passing range. It looked a tactical move by the manager to fill the gap left by Lanzini's absence, and it did work to get his team using the ball better. The away leg will surely see the Argentine return and Fornals back out to the wing.

All of Benrahma's promise was about to become an afterthought.

With seconds remaining in the half, Bowen was taken down deep in the Lyon half. The referee, who was abysmal throughout, let the play go and suddenly the counter-attack was on. A through ball from midfield had Dembele onside and away from Zouma, with Cresswell to chase. As the French forward got onto the ball, the left back made a slight pull on his arm to run the other side of him. Half a beat later, down flopped Dembele. The referee sprinted over and produced the red card almost quicker than Dembele had fallen, such was the delay when he dropped to the ground.

The players were incensed, as was the manager. The red card itself was soft, it could have easily been a yellow and Dembele made an absolute meal out of minimal contact, but the anger was more over the missed foul in the build up. David Moyes, booked at half-time for his angry protestations, was right to suggest VAR should have gone back to it as part of the same phase of play.


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It changed the game. West Ham had slowly realised they were the better team, even allowing for the possession the French side had had. Dembele had failed to stretch the centre back pair until the point he ran away from Zouma and got Cresswell sent off. The striker was caught winking to teammates as Cresswell left the field. In a half in which many of the away side's players had fallen to the ground and feigned injury, it looked a little like West Ham had been played by another cynical side in Europe who were enabled by a weak referee.

It certainly changed the manager's team talk, the furious Scot surely all ready to fire his side up and demand more to go out and win the game. Instead Benrahma was withdrawn so that Johnson could fill the spot at the back and West Ham set out to cling to their European hopes.

Now when clearances went long, Antonio could only flick on to space or a defender as his teammates struggled to defend their box and support the lone striker. On occasion, Antonio swapped with Bowen to change the dynamic up top.

They defended doggedly, and if there is one thing you can trust this side to do, it is put their bodies on the line for the cause. The stadium was tense, breakout songs far from the norm as the fans readied themselves for a difficult and possibly painful 45 minutes.

That quiet was a bubbling tension, and the valve was released when Lyon fumbled at the back and Jarrod Bowen took advantage. It was a minimal press from Fornals that saw Lyon surrender the ball on the edge of their box. The Spaniard turned forward an awkward pass towards the hopeful run of Bowen, and it as bad as it was lucky. Boateng flicked it on into the path of the forward and then deflected his awkward shot beyond the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The stadium erupted, suddenly there was something to hold onto.

Lyon came forward again, but their passing was obvious and their crossing poor. Another breakout from the back gave West Ham another chance, Bowen again doing fantastically to make his way up the left wing from inside his own half and fire a ball across the pitch to the far post where Antonio was sprinting in. The goalkeeper went to meet him and neither man met the ball, the striker seeming to pull out just as the goalkeeper missed his interception.

Now the home side were rocking, and they carried more threat in darting counters than at any point in the first half. But with 25 minutes to go, the wind was taken out of their sails again.


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Tete, signed in the special window to allow players to leave Russia and Ukraine (something every other league but the bastions of honour at the Premier League, who deem it to affect "sporting integrity"...), beat Johnson down the right with too much ease and fired a ball across the area. It fizzed across the face of goal, beating everyone but a desperate clearance from Fredericks. Unfortunately, he could only divert it to Ndombele and the Spurs midfielder had an easy tap-in to level the scores.

In Johnson's defence, it appeared West Ham had allowed his flank to be the area where Lyon could have their extra man. Regardless, he was made to look foolish by the ease in which Tete beat him. Toko-Ekambi, Lyon's chief attacking threat, had been thrown on too. It was all-out-attack from the French side and West Ham were scrapping to survive. It was a siege on the West Ham goal for the rest of the game, but the boys in claret and blue are up for that fight.

Their last real respite of attack came with five minutes remaining. Rice joined Bowen and Antonio high up the pitch to suddenly find themselves with a spare man. They looked set for a dangerous attack, just on the edge of the Lyon box, before some moron ran on the pitch.

Antonio was soon booked for a strong challenge on Ndombele, but West Ham were just looking to hold on. Eight minutes of additional time was given and Lyon looked for the kill. Their problem was crossing the ball into the air, which was what this West Ham defence would have asked for. Dawson and Zouma dealt with it gamely, whilst Soucek somehow managed to make himself a third centre back and an effective midfied enforcer. Less said about his passing the better.

In the end, they braved it out. Lyon could not find a second way through, the grit of the half summed up by a chain of three Dawson sliding tackles in which he invited the Lyon players to stop him. The price would have been their legs, Dawson happy to brutally smash into anyone who tried to stop. It gave the crowd a huge lift as the seconds of stoppage time drifted away.

1-1 means the tie is open and all to play for. Moyes admitted afterwards his time had not been good enough in the first half, but his anger remained with the decision to send off Cresswell. Rightly, he believed the foul on Bowen should have negated anything that followed. VAR and a German referee disagreed.

It's off to France next week with all results possible. Will the European adventure continue beyond France or falter. The return of Lanzini should be crucial, but Cresswell's absence will be a blow. West Ham look the better side, but now they need to prove it.


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Manager's Rating

David Moyes: 7/10
Arguably, he could have used another substitute to keep fresher legs, but the result means that suggestion holds little weight. Who knows how that second half would have gone.

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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
Not drastically tested, but looked to have good command of his area and did well when called upon. For the goal, he gets a palm to the ball to fire it at Fredericks, but it's all he could do or he'd be allowing that to creep in.


Ryan Fredericks
Not much he can do on the goal, Areola's flick goes right to his toes and it's just unfortunate Fredericks can only prod it to Ndombele. Didn't see enough of his attacking threat in the first half.


Aaron Cresswell
It wasn't a red card, not just because of the foul on Bowen, but Cresswell gave him an opportunity to fall and gave the referee an opportunity to send him off. He didn't need to.


Kurt Zouma
Defended well after the goal, but had he sprinted back after Dembele, Cresswell may have remained on the pitch.


Craig Dawson
Strong in defence, big booming tackles, fantastic range of passing. It is nowhere near an easy task to find a better centre back than him in the summer.


Declan Rice
Was it a fear of being booked that held Rice back? He struggled to influence the game in either half and made sloppy mistakes that are very out of character. Positionally brilliant, as ever, and he stops a lot of burgeoning attacks just by filling the right gaps. But he wasn't anywhere near his high standards.


Tomas Soucek
Tommy may benefit from the side I sat on, but the way he defended inside the box and then consistently made it out to defend the edges and beyond was magnificent. His passing needs to get better when under pressure, but the work rate and the presence he has in defence will not be matched by any signing.


Pablo Fornals
West Ham only really got playing in the first half when Fornals went into the midfield properly and started getting on the ball. He sees the picture on the pitch better than any of his teammates. The second half, well, it's impossible to know where he finds the energy. He worked so hard at the back, yet he's up with Bowen on the counter and he's there to set up the goal. Incredible determination.


Said Benrahma
The margins between what he does being good and what he does being bad are so fine. He needs to learn when to deliver the ball, whether that's a cross, pass or shot. He can beat a man like Payet, but Dimi would use the ball brilliantly. Benrahma often chooses to beat his man again. Maybe he finds the space and no one is in the box, but he might be better off just putting in the good cross and teaching the forwards to be ready.


Jarrod Bowen
The instinct to follow in and be there was rewarded for his goal, and that and his lung-busting run were his only real moments in the game. Otherwise, the focus on the left and then the all-out defence really negated his influence. Harsh booking.


Michail Antonio
One header in the first half that he somehow sent into the centre for Fornals was incredible. Antonio played the lone striker role to perfection, especially considering the service to him was more hopeful than pinpoint. He isn't scoring, but he's doing everything else.



Substitutes

Ben Johnson
(Replaced Benrahma, 46) It was a thankless task as that wing always had the spare man, but he looked a lot less secure out there. Hopefully the extra man next week will give him more protection, but it's a worry considering how heavily we favour the left side.


Lukasz Fabianski
Did not play.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Vladimir Coufal
Did not play.


Arthur Masuaku
Did not play.


Issa Diop
Did not play.


Ajibola Alese
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: Jarrod Bowen 52                  .

Booked: Michail Antonio 0 Jarrod Bowen 0        .

Sent Off: Aaron Cresswell 45    .

Lyon: Lopes, Gusto, Boateng (Ekambi 64), Lukeba, Emerson, Aouar, Mendes (Denayer 90), Ndombele, Faivre (Tete 64), Lucas Paqueta, Dembele.

Subs not used: Pollersbeck, Bonnevie, Kadewere, Henrique, Dubois, Da Silva, Reine-Adela├»de, Barcola.

Goals: Ndombele (66).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Felix Zwayer.

Attendance: 59,978.

Man of the Match: Craig Dawson.