Football Features

“It’s beyond Hollywood” – Andriy Yarmolenko is West Ham’s hero as the Ukrainian fires them past Sevilla in the Europa League

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 23:03, 17 March 2022


Andriy Yarmolenko was West Ham’s hero of the hour as he scored the extra-time Europa League winner against Sevilla.

The six-time winners of the Europa League came to The London Stadium with a 1-0 lead from the first-leg but a goal from Tomas Soucek took the match to extra-time where Yarmolenko made himself even more of a folk hero.

As his country is ravaged by war, Yarmolenko soldiers on with stoic determination; his emotions back home with his people he showed no glint of joy as he tapped home the simplest of finishes to put the Hammers through. And who could blame him? That he is even able to compose himself enough to play under such circumstances is impressive enough.

 

The goal itself was simplicity, he won’t score an easier one. Michail Antonio’s magnificent hold-up play (a feature of the performance, the Jaimaican international led the line with distinction) saw the ball get fed wide to Pablo Fornals in space on the left.

The Spaniard drove forward and let fly with a trademark right-footed shot curving into the far-post, but the stupendous Yassine Bounou dove across to save it but when he did, the ball flew off his hand and straight into the path of Yarmolenko.


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Yarmolenko adjusted his body and slapped the ball home. Bang. Goal. The London Stadium erupted with a wall of noise that then didn’t stop for the remaining 10 minutes of the match and many more after. It was an incredible atmosphere that lifted every soul in the arena.

And after the match Yarmolenko went to give his shirt to a fan brandishing a Ukraine flag and for the only time tonight, we caught a glimpse of his smile. Even with all the sorrow, football can still, even if fleetingly, bring joy into the world.

“It’s Hollywood, it’s beyond Hollywood, it’s beautiful,” said Joe Cole after the match. And truly, there were headlines all over the pitch. From Michail Antonio’s duel dominance to Tomas Soucek knocking Sevilla out of the Europa League again (he did so with Slavia Prague in 2019 and is involved in both of Sevilla’s Europa League eliminations since their winning run began in 2014). And then there’s Yarmoleko.

Speaking of Yarmolenko scoring the winner despite the trouble in Ukraine, Cole added: “it goes beyond football.” While Carlton Cole said: “I didn’t cry when my two sons were born, I cried, I nearly cried now.”

When asked about Yarmolenko post-match, Declan Rice said: “To go through what he’s been through recently to come out and perform how he’s done against Villa and tonight is a credit to him. His desire, the way he’s run after players, held the ball up, switched play, two crucial goals. He’s been through so much […] Yarmo deserves this. He stepped up, he’s a big player for us, delighted for him.”

Michail Antonio echoed Rice’s comments: “Yarms is such a lovely guy, what he’s going through I couldn’t imagine. I’m so happy for him and hopefully he can keep [scoring goals].”

Antonio then added “we’re in it to win it,” and Carlton Cole said “I’m starting to believe!” And honestly, with Andriy Yarmolenko working miracles like he did tonight, aren’t you becoming a true believer too?

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