West Ham United have an uphill battle to fight after they lost 2-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final.
The Hammers went into the game on a high after their quarter-final victory over Lyon, with fans already dreaming of a return to Seville for next month’s final.
But their semi-final first leg got off to the worst possible start as Ansgar Knauff got his head onto the end of a wonderful cross from Rafael Santos Borre to put Eintracht ahead after just 49 seconds. It was the Eagles’ fastest ever goal in the Europa League, and mimicked the quick start they had at the Nou Camp en route to the semi-finals (though Knauff waited until the seventh minute to open the scoring then).
Speaking after the game, Knauff said: “I don’t know if I am doing anything special. But as against Barcelona we put them under pressure right from the off.
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“The early goal gave us a boost of course. But their goal did not put us down, we recovered well from that.
“The club, the fans, the city – we are on an incredible road here. We have analysed West Ham. I feel we did well to prevent their high crosses aimed at their big players tonight and this will be key for the return leg as well.”
West Ham were rocked by the early goal and took their time to recover but by the end of the first half they were level thanks to Michail Antonio.
The goal came from a free-kick, headed back across goal by Kurt Zouma which Antonio got onto the end of, and was deserved after the Hammers had grown into the game having seen Jarrod Bowen miss a good chance when played through the defence.
West Ham started the second half better than the first but once again they were stung by Eintracht as Daichi Kamada tapped in from close range after Alphonse Areola’s initial save on Djibril Sow’s shot.
And Moyes was left ruing his sides wasteful nature in front of goal.
“Not what we wanted – we didn’t play well enough to get a result tonight but it’s still there, it’s not gone,” he told BT Sport.
“We’ll go to the second leg probably not fancied and do what we can to still make it.
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“I didn’t change too much [after first goal], I thought we deserved to get back in the game and if we had showed enough quality in the final third we might’ve got back in front but we didn’t. Started slow in second half and gave away a poor goal for the second.
“I think we missed an awful lot of opportunities to create chances, we should’ve made more, we had chances to cross the ball better and didn’t take them, we missed big chances in the box. We made some chances and had one or two efforts, we’ll have to make more next week.”
But that shouldn’t take away from Eintracht’s performance, as they look to go one better than they did in 2018/19 when they reached the Europa League semi-final before losing to eventual winners Chelsea.
There are a lot of parallels between this season and three years ago for Eintracht too, and not just the fact that they are facing a London club in the semi-finals. Then, they finished an underwhelming seventh in the league, only just scraping a return to the Europa League.
This season they are even more underwhelming in the league, ninth in the table and unable to qualify for European competitions through their position. Their only hope now is the win the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League.
And history is on their side, with Eintracht Frankfurt advancing to the next round in each of the last 10 European ties in which they have won the first leg.
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