TIRANA, ALBANIA - MAY 25: General View of the UEFA Conference League trophy prior to the UEFA Conference League final match between AS Roma and Feyenoord at Arena Kombetare on May 25, 2022 in Tirana, Albania. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Football | Europa Conference League 2023 | Semi-Finals | Roundup
West Ham United have a slight advantage in their semi-final tie with AZ Alkmaar. The Hammers came back to win 2-1 after going a goal down at the London Stadium. It is important to win your home leg but David Moyes‘ side now faces a tough assignment next week at the AFAS stadium.
West Ham came close to taking the lead when Said Benrahma shot from outside the box was excellently saved by the fingertips of Matt Ryan. The Australian goalkeeper is a familiar face to Premier League fans, as he had spells with Brighton and Arsenal.
AZ did score the first goal but under controversial circumstances. West Ham thought they should have had a free-kick when Sam Beukema pushed Lucas Paqueta. However, the referee did not spot it which allowed the Dutch side to counter-attack which Tijjani Reijnders finished off with a great strike into the bottom corner.
It was beginning to be a frustrating night for the Hammers with Paqueta missing a chance and Jarrod Bowen coming close to an equaliser. They eventually drew level when Ryan fouled Bowen and a penalty was awarded. Benrahma stepped up and smashed in his spot-kick.
West Ham then took the lead as Michail Antonio bundled the ball in from a corner. Benrahma who had been one of the Hammers’ best players then had an opportunity to extend their lead but blazed his effort over. The home side took the victory but the tie still remains in the balance.
Moyes was realistic about the task at hand for his side. The manager was quoted on the BBC saying “I’m pleased we’ve got ourselves in front, which is a big thing. It was a difficult night. I hugely believe we’ve got a big resilience here, through the club, through the team, and we’ve needed it. We have a big job to do next week.”
Hammers goalscorer, Antonio, was honest about the team’s performance when speaking to BT Sport after the game. He said, “I don’t think I had the best of games today, but hey I’ve got the goal, I got us the win and we move on to next week.”
Fans of the London side would have thought they would be in a more comfortable position after their home leg. However, AZ showed they are a dangerous side and the Hammers will not be able to underestimate them again next week.
The winners of this game will play Basel or Fiorentina in the final at the Sinobo stadium in Prague. Basel has the lead in that tie as they beat the Italian side 2-1.
West Ham plays AZ for a place in the final next Thursday at the AFAS Stadium, with kick-off at 20:00.
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