West Ham, did you see Moffi against Basel yesterday?
By Alessandro Schiavone at ST. JAKOB-PARK, BASEL
UEFA Conference League
FC Basel 1-1 OGC Nice
West Ham United may have drawn 1-1 at Gent but their potential Conference League final opponents OGC Nice didn’t do much better as they bottled a one-goal lead to draw 2-2 on an eventful night at Swiss giants FC Basel.
If we consider either side's Europa League standards rosters, they really look the strong favourites to win the competition.
Sure, Fiorentina and Anderlecht may have other ideas in a hypothetical semi-final with Nice or the Hammers respectively. But if things go as expected, Come on you Irons and Issa Nissa will be the choruses ringing out at the Eden Arena in less than two months' time.
The one thing that united the two teams yesterday was a failure to win away from home against competitve opposition despite leading. Either way, a first leg victory would not have compromised the tie as Basel and Gent have the players to go and win away from home. But still...
So while West Ham's ten-game victorious record came to an end after they were pegged back in Belgium following Danny Ings' opener, the man who was meant to join instead of him from Lorient in January, Terem Moffi hit the onion bag twice. He first thumped past Marvin Hitz before scoring a sensational overhead kick.
Despite Kasper Schmeichel and Marvin Hitz stealing the show with excellent saves late on, this was a one-man show from Moffi whom the Hammers have to find a way to neutralise should fate pit them against each other in Prague. If Basel had managed to silence him yesterday they would surely have won the game. Amdouni also scored twice after powering home a header at the far-post from Michael Lang's cross. But all the talk was about Moffi. His first goal, which cancelled out Amdouni's penalty, was a clinical finish following a scramble in the box. The ball fell to his feet and he took his chance without a second thought. Unsuprisingly, the concession of that goal had severe psychological repercussions on the Swiss outfit as it coincided with their best moment in the game, at a time they were making transitions their weapon of choice. Hence it clearly took the wind out of Heiko Vogel’s men’s sails and spiked their guns. So only eight minutes on and the red-hot Nigerian striker netted an outrageous overhead kick from an inch-perfect Gaetan Laborde cross. That was an incredible effort and only adds to West Ham's pile of regrets for not getting the deal done three months ago as the board was reluctant to spend €30m to sign him from Lorient. His crisp effort contained vision, execution and killer edge, something Scamacca, Antonio and Ings have lacked for the majority of the season.
In a typical third-tier European clash neither team was particularly creative in the opening 20 minutes. The game only sparked into life after Basel were awarded a penalty when Jean-Claire Todibo pushed Dan Ndoye in the box. Up stepped Zeki Amdouni who slotted home to give Basel a 1-0 lead. Then new France international Kephren Thuram dragged a shot wide on the hour-mark despite having the time and space to hit the target. Basel were good in transition, broke forward at pace and were dominant territorially as Nice looked flat. But it only took a lapse of concentration by the hosts for Moffi to latch on to a poor clearance and hit a first-time effort into the back of the net. And if you haven't yet watched his second goal just look up for Haaland's worldie against Saints at the weekend because it's almost identical.
West Ham may have to revisit their decision to pull out of the race to sign him to go for Ings instead. And if they are to come up against him in the final, they'll have one hand on the trophy if they manage to keep him quiet.
If they won't, they will have more than 30 millions of regrets.
1 Hitz-5 Lang-8 Diouf-9 Amdouni-15 Adams-17 Zeqiri- 21 Pelmard- 22 Lopez- 23 Burger- 27 Ndoye- 34 Xhaka
1 Schmeichel- 8 Rosario – 25 Todibo- 4 Dante- 38 Amraoui- 16 Ramsey- 55 Ndayishimiye-28 Boudaoui- 19 Thuram- 24 Laborde- 9 Moffi
Goals: Amdouni(2), Moffi (2)