The disappointment was too much for West Ham to bear. Even David Moyes had lost control as a demoralizing night deep in the German forest drew to a close. Any thought of a heroic comeback was long gone and, despite all that Moyes’ side fought for after dropping to 10 men, nothing summed up their lack of composure better than the sight of their manager doing a lonely walk down the tunnel after seeing red to lose his temper with a ballboy during the death stages.
The harsh reality is that West Ham didn’t do enough to win that Europa League semi-final. For Moyes, who later apologized for throwing the ball into a time-wasting locale as Eintracht Frankfurt edged closer to victory, it 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 daylight it was hard not to feel that Moyes’ anger owed much to his side’s failure to seize the moment against Frankfurt, who simply handled the details better throughout. of the encounter.
It was a joyful occasion for the hosts, although their supporters flooded the pitch and clashed with police after the final whistle. This competition seems to suit Oliver Glasner’s side. They have already knocked out Barcelona and despite being 11th in the Bundesliga, there was a lot to admire in the way they treated their opponents.
All the same, West Ham created their own problems. They were let down with a scrappy performance at the London Stadium last week and their hopes of turning things around were all but over after Aaron Cresswell was sent off for a senseless red card with just 19 minutes remaining in the second leg.
Moyes had spoken about West Ham having to manage the game. There were also attempted wits when he suggested Frankfurt might struggle to protect their lead from the first leg. Yet this wonderfully atmospheric stadium was bouncing back long 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 home to Frankfurt Ultras, until what a few stewards rush to deal with the fire. seven minutes of play.
It felt like it was going to be that kind of night. By this stage, Frankfurt had already lost key centre-back Martin Hinteregger after injuring his knee due to a challenge from Michail Antonio. It seemed like a blow to the hosts who revamped their back three by bringing in Almamy Toure, and at that time the signs were good for West Ham, who started well and enjoyed plenty of possession from the start. start.
Yet disaster lurked. It was infuriating for Moyes to see one of his most experienced players give Frankfurt the lead. West Ham could afford no wrong move and Cresswell had only himself to blame when he failed to cope with a hopeful punt, the slightest hint of hesitation from the left-back enough to give Jens Petter Hauge a chance to steal possession and break through. to goal.
Cresswell was too slow to respond. Hauge was much more assertive and the only surprise was Jesús Gil Manzano, the Spanish referee, first reaching for a yellow card when Cresswell dragged the Frankfurt forward just outside the box.
It was a clear denial of a goalscoring opportunity from Cresswell, who had learned nothing from being sent off for the same offense against Lyon in the previous round. Frankfurt called for a red and the outcome was inevitable when Manzano checked the pitchside monitor.
The power play soon said. West Ham adjusted after dropping to 10 men, bolstering 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 separating West Ham in the 26th minute, Ansgar Knauff passing Johnson on the right and clearing the ball away from Rafael Borré to beat Alphonse Areola with a low finish.
At least West Ham kept fighting. Antonio threatened, almost running before Evan Ndicka intervened with a nice challenge. Hopes were shattered and the equalizer nearly came when a Jarrod Bowen free-kick hit Kurt Zouma, who couldn’t get the ball over the line.
Still, West Ham couldn’t have enough without Lanzini on the pitch. Pablo Fornals was rarely involved and Bowen saw little of the ball. Frankfurt was comfortable. Their intensity has made life difficult for West Ham. Even Declan Rice has calmed down in midfield.
It wasn’t to be and the challenge now for West Ham is to make sure it’s not the end. It’s a good team that just needs a pinch of quality. Summer will be decisive. It’s a chance to keep going, to keep building around Rice, to make sure those chances aren’t one-offs. For now, however, there is only pain.