The disappointment was too much for West Ham. Even David Moyes had lost control as a demoralizing night deep in the German woods drew to a close. Any idea of a heroic comeback was long past, and for all that Moyes’s team struggled after being down to 10 men, nothing summed up their lack of composure better than the sight of their coach taking a solitary walk through the tunnel after seeing red to lose his cool with a ball boy during the final stages.
The harsh reality is that West Ham had not done enough to win this Europa League semi-final. For Moyes, who later apologized for kicking the ball in a local time waster as Eintracht Frankfurt locked in victory, this stung. More than anything, it was the feeling that West Ham could have done more to reach the final. The frustration was immense and in the cold light of day it was hard not to feel that Moyes’s outburst was largely due to his team’s inability to seize the moment against Frankfurt, who simply handled the details better during the tie.
This was a joyous occasion for the hosts, despite their fans storming the pitch and clashing with the police after the final whistle. This competition seems to suit Oliver Glasner’s side. they have already done knocked out barcelona and although they are ranked 11th in the Bundesliga, there was much to admire in the way they treated their opponents.
Still, West Ham created their own problems. They were disappointed with a disjointed performance at London Stadium last week and their hopes of turning it around were dashed after Aaron Cresswell was sent off for a silly red card with just 19 minutes remaining in the second leg.
Moyes had spoken about the need for West Ham to run the game. There were also attempts at mind games when he suggested that Frankfurt might struggle to protect their lead in the first leg. However, this wonderfully atmospheric stadium was bouncing well before kick-off and it was even possible to wonder if it was part of the show when a small fire broke out at the end of the Frankfurt Ultras headquarters, until some stewards rushed in to deal with it. of the fire. seven minutes of play.
It looked like it was going to be that kind of night. By this time, Frankfurt had already lost key centre-back Martin Hinteregger after he injured his knee due to a challenge from Michail Antonio. It looked like a huge blow for the hosts who realigned their three defenses by bringing in Almamy Touré, and at the time the signs were good for West Ham, who started well and enjoyed plenty of possession early on.
However, disaster was looming. It was galling for Moyes to see one of his most experienced players gift Frankfurt the initiative. West Ham couldn’t afford any false moves and Cresswell had no one but himself to blame when he couldn’t deal with a hopeful clearance, the slightest hint of hesitation from the left-back was enough to give Jens Petter Hauge the opportunity to steal possession and break through. in goal
Cresswell took too long to respond. Hauge was much more assertive and the only surprise was that Jesús Gil Manzano, the Spanish referee, initially sought a yellow card when Cresswell dragged the Frankfurt striker out of the area.
It was a clear denial of a scoring opportunity from Cresswell, who had learned nothing from being sent off for the same offense against Lyon in the previous round. Frankfurt appealed to the red and the result was inevitable when Manzano checked the field monitor.
The numerical advantage was soon counted. West Ham adjusted after being down to 10 men, shoring up their defense by replacing Manuel Lanzini with Ben Johnson, but it wasn’t enough. Frankfurt simply had too much space. They kept the ball moving and were ahead after splitting West Ham in the 26th minute, Ansgar Knauff dribbled past Johnson on the right and returned the ball for Rafael Borré to beat Alphonse Areola with a low shot.
At least West Ham kept fighting. Antonio threatened, nearly running before Evan Ndicka stepped in with a good challenge. Hope was lit and the tie almost came when Jarrod Bowen’s free kick hit Kurt Zouma, who was unable to convert the ball over the line.
However, West Ham did not have enough without Lanzini on the pitch. Pablo Fornals was rarely involved and Bowen saw little of the ball. Frankfurt were comfortable. His intensity made life uncomfortable for West Ham. Even Declan Rice was calm in midfield.
It couldn’t be and the challenge now for West Ham, whose hopes of qualifying for the Champions League are over, is to make sure this isn’t the end. This is a good piece of equipment that just needs a bit of quality. Summer will be essential. It is an opportunity to move forward, to continue to build around Rice, to ensure that these occasions are not unique. For now, however, there is only pain.