Ukraine's Andriy Yarmolenko Sends West Ham Through To The Europa League Quarters

Ukraine's Yarmolenko scored his second goal in two games since returning from compassionate leave
22:34, 17 Mar 2022

West Ham United are through to the quarter finals of the Europa League, after beating Sevilla 2-0 on a night of high drama at the London Stadium. The emotional finale saw Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko score the winning aggregate goal in the second half of extra time to keep the Hammers’ European dream alive.

West Ham started brightly, troubling Sevilla but lacking the final ball to truly punish them. When the game opened up, it was the visitors who had the first real chance of the evening. Youssey En-Nesyri appeared to have sent Alfonse Areola the wrong way with a close-range strike, before the goalkeeper shifted his body shape to pull off a truly special save.

Said Benrahma carved out a chance for Michail Antonio, who came through a late fitness test to play this vital fixture. Benrahma threaded a disguised ball through to the Jamaican striker, who drew a good save from Bono.

The Hammers would thank their lucky stars that Antonio had overcome his injury concerns towards the end of the half. The forward did well to create space for himself to loop a cross into the Sevilla penalty area. Tomas Soucek rose to head it across goal and into the net to put West Ham level on aggregate. The goal was Soucek’s first in Europe for the east London club, and it arrived at the perfect time.

Soucek drew a save from Bono soon after the whistle to herald the second half. Declan Rice put the rebound wide from a tough position, and then took the opportunity to gesture for even more noise from the vocal West Ham contingent. The Hammers were in confident mood during the early moments of the half, with Sevilla seeming content to sit back and let them play. It was a dangerous strategy from the Spaniards, as West Ham began to create regular chances.

The game became a backs to the wall job for Sevilla, as West Ham continued to probe. A well-worked move fell down when Fornals couldn’t direct his cross. Zouma threatened with a header from the resulting corner. Bono was unconvincing when punching through a crowd from another set piece. Julen Lopetegui’s men could not shake West Ham off.

Sevilla showed signs of life through Jesus Corona, who created space for himself but could only blast his shot over the bar. The winger worked a crossing opportunity minutes later, but found his forwards out of position and the chance passed. Neither side could edge ahead during the 90 minutes and extra time would be needed to settle the tie. 

West Ham started the extra thirty minutes in the same vein as the previous 90, looking to unlock Sevilla with quick passing on the edge of their box. Soucek had a gilt-edged chance to put David Moyes’ side into the lead. Craig Dawson nodded a set piece delivery towards the back post and Czech Republic midfielder headed wide from close-range.

Declan Rice was probably already imagining the news reports tomorrow morning when a chance fell to him at the start of the second half of extra time. The ball rolled perfectly into his path about 20 yards out, but the England midfielder sent his effort into the stands. West Ham had done everything apart from score a second goal by this point, such was the one-sided nature of the contest.

Pablo Fornals took a shot from distance which Bono could only parry and Andriy Yarmolenko pounced, slotting the ball into the net. The Ukraine international was making his second appearance since returning from compassionate leave due to the Russian invasion of his homeland, and he has scored in both. The fact Yarmolenko can even ply his trade during a moment of intense suffering for his people is laudable. The fact that he is meeting this challenge by making pivotal contributions for his team is frankly astonishing.

It was the most incredible finale to a nail-biting night of football. The narrative is intoxicating, a real reminder of why we love the sport of football. Yarmolenko providing a moment of magic that will live forever. The Hammers finding a way past a club that have won this competition more than any other. All played out in front of a cacophonous atmosphere in east London. As a great man once said; “Football, bloody hell”.

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