West Ham face an uphill battle to reach the Europa League final after slumping to a 2-1 defeat in their first leg clash with Eintracht Frankfurt at the London Stadium.
The Hammers were playing in their first European semi final for 46 years but made the worst possible start as Ansgar Knauff nodded the visitors ahead inside 50 seconds.
David Moyes’ men responded well to the setback and after Jarrod Bowen hit the post the home side levelled on 21 minutes through a well-worked set piece. Michail Antonio got the final touch as he prodded home Kurt Zouma’s header to net his 11th goal of the season.
West Ham appeared to have got back on track but it was the away team who looked the more threatening after the interval and they deservedly regained the lead on 54 minutes.
Alphonse Areola made a smart save to stop Djibril Sow from finishing off a superb move but he could not prevent Daichi Kamada from tucking in the rebound.
Substitute Said Benrahma went close to snaring another equaliser with a shot from distance while Kamada was a whisker away from grabbing a third for Oliver Glasner’s men, who looked the more composed throughout. Bowen almost saved the day with a stunning overhead kick but it came crashing back off the crossbar in stoppage time to leave the Hammers with it all to do in Germany.
Next up, West Ham host Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday before the second leg of this last four encounter in Germany on Thursday. Frankfurt visit Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Monday.
Frankfurt spoil West Ham’s big moment. Frankfurt may sit ninth in the Bundesliga but they reserve their best for the Europa League – just ask Barcelona.
The visitors played with real quality for long spells and refused to give the home support the chance to truly involve themselves in the West Ham fight.
To their credit, the Hammers kept battling and came within a whisker of stopping their big night from ending in a defeat late on.
On the balance of play Frankfurt were worthy winners and are now clearly favourites to claim a spot in the final in Sevilla, but you would be a fool to write off this Hammers side just yet.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ansgar Knauff (Frankfurt). A real menace down the right, particularly in the first half. Epitomised Frankfurt’s slick passing style and capacity to break at pace.
WEST HAM: Areola 7, Johnson 6, Zouma 7, Dawson 7, Cresswell 7, Rice 7, Soucek 7, Bowen 7, Lanzini 6, Fornals 6, Antonio 7. Subs: Benrahma 7.
FRANKFURT: Trapp 7, Hinteregger 7, Tuta 7, Toure 7, Rode 7, Kamada 8, Sow 8, Kostic 7, Borre 8, Lindstrom 7, Knauff 8. Subs: Hauge 6, Ache n/a.
01’ – GOAL! – West Ham 0-1 Eintracht Frankfurt. It’s a lightning start from the visitors! Knauff makes a late dash to the far post to meet Borre’s wonderful cross from the left and head beyond Areola.
14’ – WEST HAM CHANCE! So close for the Hammers. Bowen is sent charging clear on the keeper but his low shot flashes back off the post.
21’ – GOAL! – West Ham 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt. Antonio lunges in to touch home Zouma’s header back across goal from Lanzini’s teasing free kick delivery.
38’ – EINTRACHT FRANKFURT CHANCE! Knauff darts in from the right and looks to be in on goal. He’s held up by a desperate challenge from Cresswell but still manages to turn onto the loose ball before rifling wide of the near post.
54’ – GOAL! – West Ham 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt. A lovely, flowing move dissects the home side’s defence and sees Sow race clear on the keeper. It’s well saved by Areola but Kamada is on hand to tap the rebound into the empty net.
68’ – WEST HAM CHANCE! Benrahma skims the far post with a swerving shot from distance.
79’ – EINTRACHT FRANKFURT CHANCE! Kamada seems set to make it three but his shot towards the far post takes a nick off a defender and comes crashing back off the far post.
90+2’ – WEST HAM CHANCE! Bowen sees a magnificent overhead kick come crashing back off the bar. So unlucky for the home side.