Europa League
West Ham United 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt 

Thursday, 28th April 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

If West Ham United are going to make the Europa League Final, they will have to win away in Germany after Eintracht Frankfurt left the London Stadium with a 2-1 victory.

Slow starts to both halves, a bad habit that has crept into this side before, cost the Hammers dearly. A goal inside a minute set the tone, Borre given all the time in the world to pick a cross in the box, and Knauff allowed to run behind Fornals with ease to meet it and head into the back of the net.

Antonio equalised midway through the first half, but a Kamada tap-in in the 54th-minute was enough to give the visitors the advantage going into next week's second leg.

The game had started with a sense of excitement and optimism, West Ham fans buoyed by the surprise return of Kurt Zouma to the back line. That bubble was burst almost instantly, Frankfurt starting fast and moving the ball with a sharpness that unsettled West Ham.

Borre found himself with his back to goal, just inside the corner of the area on their left flank. He turned, unopposed, looked up and was still not closed down as he curled a cross at the back post, curling in on goal. Knauff had run around the blind side of Fornals and the Spaniard reacted too slowly, the German winger meeting the ball to nod in from close range and give the away side the perfect start.

Eintracht had won four of their last five away from home in this European campaign and their confidence was apparent as they played brisk and attractive passing football, confident doing so from defence and then playing neat cycles in the West Ham half.

The home side, on the other hand, looked like they had hampered themselves with a defensive setup that left Fornals too responsible for defensive work, almost as a left wing-back when out of possession.

All in all, it led to an opening to the game that the visitors controlled. Everything looked natural in their play, whilst Moyes's side were fighting to get close to their opponents.

It took a Jarrod Bowen chance to wake the players and the fans up, and bring them back into the game. It was smart play, Hammers pouncing in midfield, regaining the ball and flying forward. Suddenly Soucek had passed Bowen through when everyone was looking to Antonio. The wniger took it in, got one-on-one and smashed his shot low, only to hit the base of the post. Replays showed the goalkeeper's foot had just made the save, touching it ever so slightly and enough to move it off target. It had taken 15 minutes, but West Ham were in the tie.

That spark settled the hosts into the game and with that they went from chasing to truly competing, and beginning to bring some of their own authority to the occasion.

With the tails up, West Ham needed a goal. This time, they capitalised on their ascendency, a long cross to the far post from a Lanzini freekick headed back across goal by Zouma and to the stretched out, flying leap of Antonio to hook the ball into the back of the net and get his side level. A crucial goal, and his first since March 2nd in the FA Cup.

In just over twenty minutes, both sides had seen what the other had to offer, had seen the kind of football that had dragged their opponent deep into the tournament. Frankfurt knew the game they had come to play, knew they way they wanted to play it and stuck to that idea, that ideal.

It was relentless, and they carried such a threat on turnovers that you could sense the tension when West Ham were in possession. The wrong pass, a bad touch, and Frankfurt could be pouring in at goal in a flash. Kamada's runs from midfield scared the defence, the same with Lindstrom. On the wing, Kostic delivered crosses with dangerous whip and pace, and into dangerous areas too.

But where West Ham had started slow, now they dared to do more. Pressing higher up the pitch, Johnson and Bowen preyed on Toure's weakness on the ball to win it back. Johnson passed square to Antonio in the box, but the striker's touch was not sharp enough this time and he was dispossessed in a dangerous area.

There will be some disappointment that more wasn't made of Bowen's threat down the right, the wide man running at the Frankfurt defence with pace and often causing problems. Johnson was a timid companion and offered very little going forward.

What the away side had was a constant air of threat. A counter from a West Ham corner could have given them the lead before half time, carried brilliantly forward and a lovely through ball almost getting Borre in. Cresswell got a vital sliding challenge to the ball but it fell back with the striker. Under pressure from Cresswell and Areola, Borre scuffed wide.

At the break, the sides went in at one apiece, probably fair on the balance of play, although the Germans looked the more dangerous of the two sides.

A quicker start from West Ham gave them half a chance within five minutes of the restart after good play from Rice in midfield. His burst forward saw him give it to Antonio on the left to cross. Bowen flew in, but Soucek waited on the edge and got the ball chipped back to him, but the volley down was comfortably wide on a difficult chance. Five minutes later, they were behind once more.

This was brilliance. West Ham were too passive as Frankfurt played across and looked for space to exploit, patiently searching for the spot to play through. Down their left, they found it, intricate and sudden passing football feeding Sow into the area and one-on-one with Areola. The goalkeeper did well, getting down low to his left to make the save, but only into the path of the excellent Kamada to tap in and restore his side's lead. The passing move was brilliant, it really was, and West Ham looked dazed as they followed the ball. Lulled into an easy pattern as they recycled and moved across, the sudden injection of quality and drive caught the defence on their heels.

With 25 minutes to go, Moyes rolled the dice as he threw on Benrahma for Lanzini. The Algerian was something different, a creative spark and a bundle of energy. Soon he smacked the post with an absolute beauty of an effort from 30 yards, leaving the goalkeeper stood still and watching as it curled towards the top corner but slapped the side of the post and careered off wide.

He was a livewire, but undoubtedly a frustration, as ever. Never more so than when a wonderful pass from Rice over the Frankfurt defence had him in a dangerous corner on the far side of the box, but Benrahma kept his head down and then tried to curl into the far corner with Antonio and Bowen both making runs for a simple ball into the middle. A pass likely gives either an easy opportunity to level things. The touch to take Rice's ball down was fantastic, but this is where we are with Benrahma. His introduction had an impact, it made the side more dangerous, but he is struggling to find that final ball and will frustrate until he does.

There was drama to come, but not before Kamada smacked the post with a shot deflected by Dawson when in the area. So close were the margins that that could have been West Ham all but out of the tie.

And still they will come away from it feeling cruelly betrayed by the footballing fates. Rice, taking charge as others flagged, curled in a cross from the left and found Bowen in full flight, horizontal in the air as he slammed in an overhead kick. It beat the goalkeeper, but not the woodwork, smashing against the bar and down, away from goal. Hitting the woodwork three times hurts, but none more so than that last effort. It could have bounced down and in, off the legs of the goalkeeper or just an inch lower and into the back of the net.

Soucek headed the corner over and it was done, a one-goal deficit to overcome yet again. But it didn't stop West Ham toppling Sevilla, and they went to Lyon and won when they had to, too. All hope is not lost, even if it feels like it right now.


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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
Did well with what he could do well with, truthfully. He could not stop the goals, the save on the second one was very good.


Ben Johnson
Poor on the ball and there were just obvious moments where you could see Coufal would have the confidence to do more in attack. We needed it and Johnson often took too long and was too wayward.


Craig Dawson
Played reasonably well, making a few crucial defensive interventions, but there were one-on-one moments where the speed Frankfurt attacked at definitely caught him out.


Kurt Zouma
Looked in control but did not suit playing as the man in the middle of a back three, as it appeared he was early on. Looked much more composed when back in a normal back four.


Aaron Cresswell
Played reasonably well and handled the job as left back fine. If only he had been trusted to do so from the start.


Declan Rice
A very good performance from Declan, but he couldn't quite find the final gear to force his side back on level terms. Won possession nine times, most duels won, clearances and tackles won in the game, kept the ball and passed well, and his driving runs pushed West Ham forward and caused problems.


Tomas Soucek
Had a reasonably solid game in the middle, but when Frankfurt fired balls through the midfield, there were gaps. Couldn't influence too much but got around, did his work and played a good balanced game with Rice.


Pablo Fornals
Sloppy on the goal, just not aware and a reminder that he is good defensively for an attacking player, rather than a reliable defender. Got into the game and played some good passes but couldn't influence either.


Jarrod Bowen
So unlucky not to have two, let alone one. His direct running also caused problems and one of the lessons learned should be that they can scare Frankfurt with the ball carriers and dribblers.


Manuel Lanzini
Good freekick for the first goal but didn't have enough of an influence on the game. There was more space when Benrahma came on, but more threat from him. Will be a call to make between the two for the second leg.


Michail Antonio
Commitment and movement for the goal was ideal, even if Rice was there too. Disturbed the defence, but not as much as he did against Lyon. A decent game but moments of frustration.



Substitutes

Said Benrahma
He had a positive impact on the game yet failed to deliver when in dangerous areas. Benrahma giveth and Benrahma? taketh? away.



















Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ben Johnson, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Manuel Lanzini, Michail Antonio.

Goals: None.

Booked: Issa Diop 21 Pablo Fornals 85        .

Sent off: None.

Eintracht Frankfurt: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: .

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: .