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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Sloppy West Ham need a miracle after 2-0 defeat in Leverkusen. But they have done it before...


By Alessandro Schiavone at BayArena, Leverkusen


Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 West Ham

Goals: Hofmann 83', Boniface 90+1'


Bayer Leverkusen left it late to beat a rudderless West Ham side as super subs Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface scored to secure a 2-0 first-leg win.


Xabi Alonso's Werkself now have a foot-and-half in the semis of the Europa League, with the Hammers needing something akin to a miracle to overturn a two-goal deficit against a side that hasn't lost at all this season.


The stats make for a deflating reading: 42 games, 37 wins, 5 draws.


To claim that Bundesliga-champions elect Leverkusen outclassed the Londoners would be underselling it.


And you can only wonder how many Leverkusen would have won by had it now been for the terrific Lukasz Fabianki who repelled wave after wave of Leverkusen attacks.


The Polish veteran stole the show in the land of goalkeeping greats Sepp Maier, Oliver Kahn and Manuel Neuer. Save after save. And not routine ones.


His first top-drawer stop came when he clawed away Alejandro Grimaldo's long ranger before he went on to repeat the trick with Edmond Tapsoba who also tried his luck from distance.


And Fabianski's one-man show continued when he got down low to fingertip Patrik Schick's net-bound strike out.


The hosts used width, depth and quick combinations to open up West Ham. But in the end they were always restricted to shots from outside the box.


West Ham's best bet to hurt the Invincibles from the Lower Rhein region was by beating the first press in their own half and then break fast.


But on the rare occasions when they did just that, Mohammed Kudus frustratingly drilled a poor effort into Matej Kovar's hands from Michail Antonio's cutback.


In the second period West Ham kept sitting off Leverkusen and by doing so they just invited more shots on goal. Who else if not Fabianski who bailed his sluggish side out again by spectacularly tipping over Czech Republic Euro 2020 top scorer Schik's header?


But with seven minutes to go, Jonas Hofmann found the breakthrough goal. Kurt Zouma did well to block Boniface's effort but when the loose ball fell to the ex-Mönchengladbach winger he swept it home through a crowd of players.


Moments later, Tomas Soucek's twice put his body on the line to block shots but there was nothing he could do to keep out Boniface's glancing header in the dying seconds.


West Ham's Europa League is hanging by a thread but at the same time the Hammers now have a golden opportunity to rewrite the history books by becoming the first side to beat a team filled with legends-in-the-making.


But they really need to fire on all cylinders and hope that everything goes their way at London Stadium next Thursday. And why not hope that Leverkusen will suffer a hangover from this weekend's title celebrations? Alonso's men only need to see off Werder Bremen to win their first-ever Bundesliga Meisterschale .


And any complacency or tiredness kicking in four days before the London leg would work in West Ham's favour who have nothing to lose.


The return of Jarrod Bowen would certainly be an ace up David Moyes' sleeve. The England international's transitions and pace were sorely missed tonight and you just can't write the Hammers off if he passes a late fitness test for Thursday.


Few give West Ham a chance now but in football stranger things have happened before.


Who remembers West Ham's shock wins over Seville and Lyon not so long ago?


Teams


Leverkusen: Kovář - Stanišić (Hincapié 66'), Tah (c), Tapsoba - Frimpong (Tella 67'), Palacios, Xhaka, Grimaldo - Adli (Hofmann 76'), Wirtz - Schick (Boniface 76')


Unused subs: Hrádecký, Lomb, Kossounou, Andrich, Borja Iglesias, Arthur, Puerta


Out: Hložek (ankle), Mbamba (ineligible)


Coach: Xabi Alonso


West Ham: Fabiański - Coufal, Mavropanos (Aguerd 86'), Zouma (c), Cresswell - Ward-Prowse, Souček, Emerson - Kudus (Johnson 86'), Paquetá -


Antonio


Unused subs: Anang, Knightbridge, Cornet, Inge, Ogbonna, Earthy, Casey, Mubama, Orford


Out: Álvarez (suspended), Aréola (groin), Bowen (knock)


Coach: David Moyes




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