West Ham United 1 Frankfurt 2 Europa League Semi Final 1st Leg 28th April 2022

Hammers Conceded Early in Disappointing 1st Leg Defeat at London Stadium

Hope everyone is safe and well.

I have been busy with the end of Ramadan and Eid celebrations, as well as supporting other residents from our previous block of flats who are having real issues with their longer term temporary accommodation. It’s still hard to understand how a charity housing association can treat vulnerable people and their family members with such contempt. We are grateful that we have a place to stay where nothing needs doing whereas other residents are battling with the housing association just to get the hot water sorted and electricity working! So apologies for the delay in this post – and therefore the Arsenal post. Life seems to be so busy right now, just like the fixture list at the tail end of the season.

Sadly, this post comes on the back of our exit from Europa League at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt in two disappointing performances given how the team have played throughout this competition.

But, we have lost to a team that has won away at Real Betis and Barcelona already in the knockout stages of the Europa League and it’s not as if we have been outplayed. But the disappointment hurts as the bubbles fly high and fade and die on another mixed season for us.

Frankfurt had the perfect start by taking the lead within the opening minute when the young Ansgar Knauff broke into the area to provide a sucker punch that the Hammers struggled to shake off. Indeed, Knauff was a constant threat and could have doubled Frankfurts lead, being in form from previous rounds by scoring in away games against Real Betis and Barcelona.

The pre-match rendition of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ and noise from the crowd could not lift the home side despite the fans continuing to sing their support throughout the match. The London Stadium has found its voice in this competition and it sends the hairs on the back of your neck tingling as the crowd stood throughout the match to cheer, chant and sing West Ham on, urging the team to find a goal.

And it came as Antonio headed in from Kurt Zouma’s noon down to raise the roof and blow fresh bubbles of hope around the stadium of an historic win to set up for the second leg in Germany. But it was not to be despite patient build up from the home side with little reward, against the quicker and more threading attack of the visitors. 

The Hammers defensive woes seemed to be swept aside as Zouma returned to the side after his ankle injury, but he seemed to be the weakest link and Cresswell struggled after the early goal and his lack of defensive attack was noticeable in Frankfurts second gaol. 

Kamada found the net from Alphonse Areola’s save that fell kindly for him and he could have put the tie to bed if he had scored from a later curling shot that flicked off Dawson. That would have left the Hammers with a lot to do at Waldstadion for the second leg where Frankfurt have not won in five, but not lost either. You could see why the visitors have not lost away in this competition and their attacking threat remained.

Bowen had the best chance of rescuing a draw in stoppage time with an overhead kick from Delan Rice’s cross that bounced agonisingly down from the crossbar. But it proved to be a crucial opportunity missed as the Hammers prepared for the second leg, and ultimately their last stop on a journey that has given us some wonderful nights under the lights.

We can now focus on securing a place in Europe next year by our league position, dependent on results of those teams around us in the Premier League.

Hope you enjoy the photos, despite the result.

Take care everyone

Dawud

West Ham United 1 Burnley 1 17th April 2022

Hammers extend unbeaten run in home draw to Burnley

I pray everyone is safe and well.

The party atmosphere continued from Thursdays incredible away win at Lyon to secure a historic Europa League semi final with Frankfurt and with the summer sun beating down on the London Stadium fans were hoping for more of the same against managerless Burnley, who are struggling for Premier League survival.

This was a must win game for the Hammers if they want to keep in touch with the pack for a place in Europe next season, but then how many times have these games not gone our way? And no one would have predicted this match before hand, over shadowed as it was by the serious injury to Ashley Westwood that clearly shook the players of both teams. 

Nikolas Vlasic challenge had nothing menacing about it, but once down it was clear that Westwood was in trouble and Vlasic himself was shaken. Play stopped for 8mins as medical staff from both teams attended and the crowd gave a round of applause as he left the field. 

This seemed to put wind in the sails of the visitors as both teams showed early attacking intent and it was Burnley who took the initiative to go ahead in the first half through Weghorst, who rose to meet Jay Rodriguez’s diverted shot from Maxwel Cornet’s corner. The match wasn’t going our way and the long delay in play had clearly impacted the Hammers rhythm.

In fact, before half time it was Cornet who had a chance to take Burnley 2-0 as he raced into the area only to be brought down by Fabianski. Jeers and boos rang out as Cornet ran up to the spot only to feebly stroke the ball wide. The crowd celebrated as if the Hammers had scored. An opportunity that Burnley would come to regret at the final whistle.

The second half saw West Ham regain much of their earlier attacking fire and this was rewarded with an equaliser from close range by Soucek to set up a pacy end to the match. The Hammers pushed for a winner and both Bowen and Antonio testing Pope, whose acrobatic save from Issa Diop’s header making the difference. Pope’s influence in goal kept Burnley in the match but they are left with much to do if they are to remain in the Premier league with this result leaving them 3 points behind Everton, who have a game in hand.

West Ham on the other hand, chasing potential Champions League football, are 5 points clear with other teams around them having games in hand too. On another day, the Hammers could have won this match, but Pope, who must surely be up for an England place commanded the goal the deny the home side a much needed win.

I hope you enjoy the photos from the match

Take care

Dawud

West Ham United 1 Lyon 1 Europa League Quarter Final 7th April 2022

Hammers hold on for a deserved draw in a controversial encounter at London Stadium

I hope you are all safe and well.

I feel as if I’m always apologising for something with my blog posts, but this time its because I neglected to buy my quarter final match ticket in time to secure my usual season ticket seat. I ended up in row z high up in the rafters looking down on what ended up as being a controversial match.

So, my apology this time is that my photos are not of my usual standard and I missed some key incidents due to the people in front of me getting up to go and get food or a drink or go toilet or just to get in the way standing and chatting to each other! I’ve never known fans to be constantly moving about! Never again I can tell you and I’ll be making sure my ticket is booked early when we secure our semi final slot after next week’s victory.

It was a battling, although not the best, performance that keeps West Ham in with a chance after Cresswell was controversially sent off at the end of a first half that saw the Hammers gradually taking control against a rather niggly Lyon side happy to play for every foul and tactic to disrupt the flow of the game. Did Cresswell deserve the red card that referee Felix Zwayer handed him after bringing down Lyon skipper Moussa Dembele? It was harsh to say the least and a decision that changed the complexion of the game for the second half.

Moyes reflected afterwards ”We have a really difficult game in Lyon now but we expected that – it’s very much all to play for and I would have taken that the way we ended the first half”

But the game came to life in the second half with a beautifully worked move that ended with Bowen, doubtful for the match after a knee injury picked up from from the Liverpool game in March, sending the ball passed Lopez after lurking behind Boateng to take advantage of a break in concentration in the Lyon defence. The crowd was ecstatic and the atmosphere lifted towards the roars reminiscent of the second leg win against Sevilla only a few weeks before. Could the Hammers hold on for another historic win that would give hope of a potential semi final against Barcelona? 

The Lyon players had other ideas and were good for a goal that finally squared the tie ready for a mouth-watering encounter next week. The equaliser was tapped home from close range by on-loan Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele, who reacted quickly to a deflected ball. But the Hammers had defended resolutely and continued to hold on despite so called fans who saw fit to run onto the pitch, and one that clearly disrupted an excellent attacking move by West Ham that could have lead to a goal. Questions need to be asked as to how two fans were able to easily run onto the pitch to stop play. Added to this were stoppages in play by the ref for injuries to Lyon players, even though they were not head related.

On another day these things could have conspired to work against us, but as Dawson highlighted post match:

“The gameplan changed and we created a couple of chances and worked really hard, but I wouldn’t expect anything else. The group here is special – togetherness carries us forward. It comes from the manager. With his experience, he works hard for us and gives us the belief we can do it.”

The Hammers are going to need that togetherness and belief in the return fixture if they are going to overcome a tricky Lyon side that clearly had the ref in their pocket at the London Stadium. If you’re able to go to the match, give the team all the support they need – it will be worth every soar throat and every penny and time travelling to spur the team on to victory. COYI!

I hope you enjoy my photos from the game.

Take care everyone

Dawud

West Ham United 2 Sevilla 0 (Agg 2-1) Europa League Round of 16 2nd Leg Thursday 17th March 2022

Yarmolenko goal sends Hammers through to first European quarter final since 1981

Firstly, on a personal note we have finally moved into a longer term temporary flat, very close to where we lived before so near the boys school, and close to the London Stadium. It has been a very traumatic journey for us as a family and we may not be able to get over what has happened to us for some time. It’s hard to imagine that a landlord, which is also a charity, can continue to treat families and ordinary people, many of us vulnerable and anxious about our futures, with little or no compassion and turn our worlds upside in the way they have. But we count our blessings and the flat we have is spacious in a nice location and the neighbours all seem very friendly. Our mental and physical health has improved significantly and I thank everyone here who has sent such wonderful message of support. It has taken a while to get settled in the new place so my photo diary is quite late, but will hopefully wet our appetites for the Europa League quarter final on Thursday.

But, to the match on a night that was filled with atmosphere and expectation, an emotional Andriy Yarmolenko came on as a late substitute to secure an historic win for the Hammers at the hands of Sevilla, 4 times previous winners of the completion.

Yarmolenko, returning from compassionate leave to deal with the trauma of family and friends back home in war torn Ukraine, again provided the winner after scoring a few days previously against Aston Villa in the Premier League.

It was a perfect end to an incredible night where fans sang their hearts out throughout the match, standing room only reminiscent of cup nights under the lights at Upton Park as they played the role of 12th player with passion urging the team to victory. In fact, such was the passion and desire to witness an historical night, the stadium remained packed until the final whistle of extra time.

From the fireworks and light show that have been a feature of the Europa League prematch build up to the excellent atmosphere created by the fans, there was only going to be one outcome and the Hammers did it with a performance to match the very best seen at London Stadium in recent times. It put to rest the notion that there is no atmosphere at the London Stadium.

The Hammers came into the match trailing 0-1 from the first leg away in Spain, but were not daunted by the task ahead. As disappointing Sevilla were, the Hammers excelled across the park, controlling the tempo of the game although Sevilla had wrestled the majority of possession without offering much in terms of attacking intent. Their best chance falling to Yousef En-Nesyri who had an early effort saved by Alphonse Areola.

The Hammers had control of the midfield through the excellent performances of Declan Rice and Fornals, supported by the determined Johnson and Antonio who hassled the Sevilla defence with his endless running and attacking play. The stadium erupted when Tomas Soucek rose to head home Antonio’s cross into the far corner that levelled the tie 1-1.

Sevilla have never lost a European tie after taking a lead from the first leg, and as the game wore on it seemed destined to head for penalties as the visitors played for time and seemed to have run out of ideas on how to find that crucial goal. Yarmolenko replaced Benrahma on 87th minute and you could sense something special was going to change the game. But it wasn’t until 112th minute that the stadium burst the volume dials as Pablo Fornals’ low cross found its way to Yarmolenko after Sevilla keeper Bono had parried it into his path.

Clearly emotional and reflecting the reaction of the packed stadium, Yarmolenko simply looked to the skies surrounded by jubilant team mates watched by the highest number of West Ham fans ever seen at the London Stadium. The Hammers reward is now a quarter final against Lyon which may lead to a semi final against Barcelona. But on the evidence of this performance, surely the Hammers will feel they can go all the way.

Now that would be something special.

I hope you enjoy my photos from the match.

Take care and be safe

Dawud