The dream seemed to be over at half-time. West Ham had just lost Aaron Cresswell to a hugely controversial red card and at that stage it was hard not to feel that Lyon were going to run away with this Europa League quarter-final.
But David Moyes has made West Ham tough. Powered by injustice after seeing Felix Zwayer dismiss Cresswell for fouling Moussa Dembele, the 10 men dug in and took the lead through Jarrod Bowen. Lyon had to scrap and West Ham will travel to France with hope next week, even though Tanguy Ndombele canceled out their lead.
It was far too early for West Ham to start thinking about a potential semi-final against Barcelona. This was another imposing test and Moyes knew better than to focus on the odds favoring his team. After all, Lyon were Champions League semi-finalists two years ago and, although their domestic form has been inconsistent this season, they remain an accomplished team and it quickly became clear that they were capable of making life uncomfortable for West Ham.
It was a classic case of an experienced side drawing the sting from the occasion. Roared on by a passionate home crowd, West Ham overwhelmed Sevilla in the last 16 and Lyon did not want to suffer a similar fate. They wanted the game to be played at their pace and their intricate passing soon caused problems. There were possibilities when Lyon played through Houssem Aouar and the opening goal almost arrived when Lucas Paquetá broke down the left, only for Dembélé to turn the Brazilian’s cross wide.
Playing in their first European quarter-final since 1981, West Ham were edgy for a while. Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice struggled to keep the ball away from Tanguy Ndombele and Thiago Mendes, although there was hope on the break. They threatened when Craig Dawson’s raking ball released Saïd Benrahma, whose shot was saved by Anthony Lopes, then when Michail Antonio rumbled through and saw his effort blocked by Castello Lukeba.
On the whole, though, Lukeba and Jérôme Boateng stood up to Antonio. West Ham were not measured enough in the final third, with Jarrod Bowen unable to affect the game from the right, and there were howls of frustration when Benrahma wasted a couple of promising positions.
The game had become cagey. Rice drew a good save from Lopes from 20 yards. Boateng, Ndombele and Malo Gusto wound up the crowd by making too much of nothing challenges. Little was happening and it was hard to imagine that Moyes would be waiting on the touchline to berate the officials at half-time, West Ham’s manager incandescent after seeing his side reduced to 10 men when Cresswell’s foul on Dembélé was deemed to have denied the Lyon forward a clear goalscoring opportunity.
It was hugely questionable from Zwayer, who had waved away Bowen’s appeals for a free-kick moments before Aouar sent Dembélé racing beyond Kurt Zouma. Dembélé even wonked at his teammates after Cresswell was ordered off for a foolish tug of his opponent’s shirt. The striker’s touch had taken him away from goal, while Zouma was covering, and it felt ludicrous that there was no intervention from VAR.
Moyes was booked for his protests, although he will probably have questions about Cresswell’s defending as well. West Ham’s left-back had panicked and his dismissal of him tilted the contest in Lyon’s favour, especially with Benrahma off and Ben Johnson as an extra defender.
Inevitably Lyon dominated territory. West Ham, though, had a plan of attack. They threatened when Antonio ran at Lukeba, then when Fornals dribbled in from the left. Suddenly Lyons were ragged. Gusto did not do enough to stop Fornals and when the Spaniard prodded the ball on to Boateng it ran through to Bowen, whose messy shot hit the Lyon defender and bounced over Lopes.
West Ham chased a second, Antonio going close. Lyon needed fresh ideas and Peter Bosz sent on Tetê and Karl Toko Ekambi for Boateng and Romain Faivre. The changes paid off instantly, Tetê dribbling beyond Johnson and firing in a low ball that Alphonse Areola and Ryan Fredericks failed to clear, allowing Ndombele to equalize from close range. From there The question was whether Lyon would score again. West Ham refused to let it happen.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism