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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at the London Stadium

Hammers' great Euro odyssey is over as Leverkusen recover composure to end Irons' comeback dream



Europa League

Quarter Final Second Leg

West Ham United (1) 1 Antonio 13

Bayer Leverkusen (0) 1 Frimpong 89

Aggregate: 1-3


They gave it everything. They really did. For one wonderful 45 minutes their fantasy of retrieving a 2-0 first-leg deficit was alive. They had scored and unsettled the newly-crowned German champions with their sheer energy, verve and determination.


But having come close to blowing Bayer Leverkusen away, they found life so much harder after the break as the Bundesliga top dogs finally asserted themselves and grabbed a late equaliser to settle the tie once and for all.


The hope may have been extinguished but my how proud Hammers fans could feel as their team set about their mission nearly-impossible.


A first half of beautiful, fractious chaos was just what the Irons wanted to get a foothold in the tie.


Needing to disrupt Bayer and seed some doubt in their ranks, a fast start was essential and the sort of adrenaline kick they got with the game still in its infancy lifted their hopes.


Jarrod Bowen was given time to check back and curl a lovely flighted ball up to the waiting head of Michail Antonio and West Ham's forward focal point towered over a struggling Odilon Koossounou to power home a header.


The London Stadium, already at fever-pitch, ratcheted up the noise another notch as the belief in a miracle received the necessary shot in the arm.


It is a pity for the Hammers that the hapless Kossounou was hooked by an exasperated Bayer boss Xabi Alonso with less than half an hour gone.


The defender had already been booked for ploughing into James Ward-Prowse in trying to retrieve a miss control and he gave the ball away several times in dangerous positions.


The feeling was that he may have been partying just a bit too hard at the weekend after Leverkusen had broken the Bayern stranglehold to lift the Bundesliga crown for the first time. If so, he was probably not alone.


Leverkusen looked off the pace and sloppy. They made six changes from the weekend but maybe the non regulars also partied hard. This did not look like a side that has so far gone through the entire season unbeaten in the league and the Hammers scented blood.


And they really should have capitalised on further chances to really take control. Mo Kudus - all twisting menace and trickery - fired a deflected shot that Matej Kovar did well to save low down. Bowen thudded a far post volley into the keeper's legs from close range.


The febrile mood was perfect for the occasion and the Germans could not find a way to calm the maelstrom. On 30 minutes, there was an almighty row between the two benches and one of David Moyes' coaching staff, Bill McKinlay was shown a red card.


On the pitch, it was just as hot with players from both sides squaring up in a dense melee after a spat between Antonio and Bayer skipper Jonathan Tan. It was all happening.


Sustaining the all-out assault was never going to be possible for 90 minutes, however, and Alonso made changes at the break to stem the tide and reestablish some composure in his side.


One of the subs, Jeremie Frimpong, almost caught out Lukasz Fabianski with a shot to the near post that the keeper just about scrambled to palm away. It felt like a sign of things starting to go the visitors' way.


Free-kicks started to be given away. Forward passes failed to stick. Increasingly, the home side was pinned back and it was the away end making more noise. The bookings mounted up. Vladimir Coufal, Kurt Zouma and Bowen were all carded. Frustration started to mount in the stands.


As the need to gamble took hold, the counter-attack came into play and when Frimpong released Victor Boniface with a first-time ball, that should have been put away. But in the end they got their goal to extend a crazy unbeaten run to 44 games as Frimpong cashed in on a tiring defence to clip in a deflected shot.


Close, but no cigar then. David Moyes dream of following up one Euro final in Prague with another in Dublin has fallen by the wayside after the bravest of showings.


Hammers: (4-2-3-1) Fabianski - Coufal (Johnson 84), Zouma, Aguerd (Ogbonna 45), Cresswell - Alvarez (Cornet 84), Soucek - Bowen, Ward-Prowse, Kudus - Antonio


Bayer Leverkusen: (3-4-2-1) Kovar - Koossounou (Tapsoba 29), Tah, Hincapie - Stanisic, Palacios, Xhaka, Grimaldo (Adli 67) -Tella (Frimpong h/t), Wirtz (Andrich 87), Schick (Boniface h/t)

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