Munir El-Haddadi showed the power of persistence as he scored the winner as Sevilla beat West Ham 1-0 in the Europa League.
The win puts the Andalucian side in a reasonably comfortable position ahead of next week’s second-leg at The London Stadium. They would have liked more goals, but a lead and a clean sheet is a solid return from a night of football.
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Munir ended the night having taken five shots at goal, missing the target four times before finally scoring his goal. So many strikers would have let their heads drop after the misses, especially on a stage as grand as this one.
But Munir kept his head down, focusing solely on his job and made sure that when another chance came his way, he was ready to bury it. And of course it was the hardest chance of all that he converted, as Marcos Acuna curled a beauty of a free-kick into the far post where Munir had hung back and remained unmarked.
West Ham have lost a game in the knockout round of a European competition for the first time since the 1980/81 season.
All to do at the London Stadium. pic.twitter.com/5wGBznl9s4
— Squawka (@Squawka) March 10, 2022
With the other Sevilla players dragging the Hammers towards the ball, Munir had all day to see the ball come down and measure his finish. He could have taken a touch in all truth, but he trusted his technique and guided a gorgeous shot into the far corner of the net.
“The technique to finish this is unbelievable,” said Joe Cole after the game. And it really was a beautiful strike that handed Sevilla their 8th win against English opponents.
It could have ended so much worse than it did for Sevilla as Europa League and Champions League winner Ivan Rakitic picked up an injury in the warm-up, forcing a late change to be made when Munir El-Haddadi came into the side.
And early on, Munir looked a player who wasn’t ready to start. The Moroccan international missed two good chances in the first-half, one a golden chance to score as just fives minutes in he raced into the box to meet a cross, only to head it wide.
In the studio, Joe Cole pointed out that the man he replaced would have been in that spot too; “Rakitic would be in this position, and [Munir] has to score there.” Cole did understand that Munir couldn’t have been fully sharp though. “He’s not ready, you know when you come in and you don’t think you’re starting, then you’re starting and [get] a chance first five minutes…”
But Cole had some praise for West Ham too, and some hope for next week’s second-leg at The London Stadium; “to go 1-0 down in that cauldron of an atmosphere, in the biggest game in the recent history of the club… and they dug in and they stayed in the game. And that’s gonna be vital when we come home next week, and it’s gonna be epic.”
For his part, Declan Rice said of the second-leg; “we can win the game.”