Europa League, Football

West Ham vs Leverkusen: Hammers get knocked out despite early goal

Bundesliga winners Bayer Leverkusen were severely tested by West Ham, but a late goal by Jeremie Frimpong secured a 3-1 aggregate victory that sent the team to the Europa League semifinals.

To have any hope of moving forward, the Hammers had to accomplish the enormous challenge of breaking the German team’s winning streak for the entire season.

However, Michail Antonio’s header in the 13th minute gave the home team optimism, and for 76 minutes, it appeared like they would be the first team to defeat Leverkusen in 44 attempts.

Nevertheless, despite several close calls from James Ward-Prowse and Jarrod Bowen, another goal was needed to even the score from the first leg. However, it was never scored.

Significantly altered After Leverkusen’s miserable performance over the majority of the first half, manager Xabi Alonso started the second half with three substitutes.

Following the resumption, there was little chance that the visitors would enable West Ham to tie the score, with Bowen’s close call following a mistake by Piero Hincapie being the only real opportunity for the home team.

Instead, Frimpong’s goal in the 89th minute took a terrible deflection off Aaron Cresswell to beat Lukas Fabianski and clinch Leverkusen’s advancement and preserve their unbeaten streak.

How West Ham was so near achieving a historical outcome


The Hammers came out of the gates with such confidence, clearly understanding the magnitude of their task: defeating Bayer Leverkusen for the first time since May 2023.

Alonso’s drastically altered champions found it difficult to maintain rhythm or energy during the first half, which was lopsided both on and off the pitch.

Even so, West Ham took the lead for the evening shortly after Nathan Tella’s long-range drive was turned behind, posing a threat to Leverkusen.

Bowen’s turn and curling cross provided Antonio with the ideal assist, as he easily defeated Odilon Kossounou in the air and nodded past a defenceless Matej Kovar.

With fewer than 30 minutes remaining, the Ivory Coast defender was substituted for Leverkusen due to their poor start. However, not before Mohammed Kudus, Antonio, and Bowen had all nearly levelled the score overall.

After Julian Alvarez’s attempt was blocked just before halftime, Ward-Prowse was still able to shoot directly at Kovar, giving the visitors some measure of strength at the back.

At the half, two further adjustments suggested what West Ham had been afraid of: a revitalised Leverkusen. And they at last had the swagger of Germany’s finest team, following what was presumably an Alonso hair dryer treatment.

Nevertheless, West Ham mostly kept them at a distance.

Fabianski blocked Frimpong’s nearly impossible angle snapshot, but the Hammers didn’t look particularly dangerous until they started to press forward for the crucial second.

Frimpong scored a goal after he was sent in behind, Florian Wirtz wildly missed a half-volley, and Bowen squandered West Ham’s only meaningful opportunity of the match.

He had three guys up in support but did not look up, harrying Hincapie off-balance and robbing the defender in his own area. He blazed a shot far beyond all three with little chance of beating Kovar from a close angle.

The Hammers’ heroic struggle came to an end in the last minute as Frimpong knocked down a ball in the box and a huge deflection off Cresswell went in the back of the net.

Thousands of West Ham supporters decided to leave at that same time, but they nevertheless showed their gratitude for pushing one of the top teams in Europe so close by cheering their team back to the centre circle for kickoff. Simply put, not nearly close enough.

On Sunday, West Ham travels to Crystal Palace to play in a London derby.

On Saturday, the Hammers will play home to Liverpool, a contender for the Premier League crown.

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