This will go down as one of the greatest games in West Ham’s history. It was an occasion to rival the farewell to Upton Park and it could not have been more fitting that the decisive touch came from Andriy Yarmolenko, who was the calmest person in the London Stadium when the ball fell to him in front of goal with eight minutes of extra time left.
They were all off the bench when he put the rebound away after Sevilla’s goalkeeper, Bono, pushed Pablo Fornals’ shot into his path. The noise, the sheer emotion, took the breath away. This crowd had seen Yarmolenko mark his return from compassionate leave with a goalscoring cameo against Aston Villa last weekend and now they had witnessed the Ukraine winger provide another moment of incredible drama, scoring the goal that sent West Ham through to their first European quarter-final since 1981.
Anything feels possible this time. West Ham have attacked the Europa League with relish and it is not going overboard to say that nobody will fancy landing them in Friday’s draw for the last eight, particularly once they examine how David Moyes’s side managed to defeat opponents who have won this competition six times.
It was an extraordinary effort. One-nil down at the start of play, West Ham simply would not be denied. “We were massive,” Moyes said. “We played with great passion. It’s not just Yarmolenko. It was the team. His message and his name will be heard all round Europe. But the story is not just about Yarmolenko. The story was about West Ham.”
There were heroes everywhere in claret and blue. Declan Rice was imperious in midfield, winning his tackles and spreading the play. Kurt Zouma and Craig Dawson headed everything away at the back and Ben Johnson pinned down Anthony Martial, who offered little before being taken off.
Then there was Michail Antonio, tirelessly running the channels, holding the ball up front and giving Sevilla’s defenders a torrid time. It was his cross that allowed Tomas Soucek to set West Ham on their way just before half-time, the Czech’s headed goal arriving just when it seemed Julen Lopetegui’s side were beginning to take control.
There was a discipline to Sevilla, who were boosted by the return of Thomas Delaney, Ivan Rakitic and Martial, and they had chances. Youssef En-Nesryi had the best of them, forcing Alphonse Areola to make a superb save at 0-0, and the striker would also threaten in the second half, lashing wide from a good position.
Yet West Ham had plenty of opportunities. They should have gone ahead when the lively Saïd Benrahma released Antonio, anticipation rising until Jules Koundé charged across to take the pace off the striker’s shot. Bono was able to make the save and the danger passed when Nemanja Gudelj beat Soucek to the rebound.
Yet it was encouraging for West Ham. After 39 minutes Benrahma linked with Antonio, who drove down the left and crossed to the far post. Soucek, who had pulled on to Ludwig Augustinsson, rose above the left-back and guided a fine header beyond Bono.
The noise was extraordinary when the ball went in and West Ham threatened during the second half. Soucek tested Bono. Sevilla’s goalkeeper would also deny Manuel Lanzini.
The tension rose, Sevilla pushing towards the end of normal time, but West Ham somehow found a second wind during extra time. Soucek went close and it seemed penalties were on the way until Yarmolenko, on for Benrahma, popped up.
The final whistle brought more celebrations. At the end Mark Noble, who is retiring at the end of the season, was wiping the tears away. The final is in Seville and West Ham will believe they will be heading back there to lift the trophy.
Source: The Guardian