West Ham United secured their first quarter-final appearance in Europe since 1981 by upsetting the UEFA Europa League’s (UEL) record title-holders Sevilla FC with a dominant display, thanks to an extra-time winner by striker Andriy Yarmolenko, sending the ‘Hammers’ through 2-1 on aggregate.
A narrow lead from the first leg was never going to be enough from the outset for Sevilla, who largely played second-fiddle to the home side’s initial onslaught. Restricting the visitors to their own half, West Ham found comfort in holding onto possession whilst searching for an opening. However, the visitors were the first to be denied, by virtue of some sheer single-handed goalkeeping brilliance by Alphonse Areola in the 28th minute, after he thwarted away Youssef En-Nesyri’s close-range effort.
The ‘Hammers’ didn’t take long to respond, as the ever-dynamic Michail Antonio accurately fed Tomáš Souček’s towering header to level the tie and blow the roof off London Stadium just as HT approached. Trailing for only the second time at the break in their previous 25 competitive matches, a few words of wisdom by coach Julen Lopetegui seemed to do the trick after the restart for ‘Los Rojiblancos’, who saw a close call by En-Nesyri fly just wide of the right post. At the other end, a moment of individual artistry by Manuel Lanzini on the hour mark almost got the home crowd on its feet, only for goalkeeper Bono to pull off an equally-astounding stop.
Both teams barely allowed one another to breathe as the final-quarter hour began, knowing very well that the next goal would certainly be decisive. Nevertheless, that moment of respite never arrived and the match headed into extra-time, wherein David Moyes’ side had an amazing chance in the first period via goalscorer Souček’s failed header into the side netting.
As penalties loomed, the home side’s advances finally paid off in the 111th minute via Ukrainian marksman Yarmolenko, who latched onto Bono’s parry from Pablo Fornals’ stinging shot and stabbed home the winner. It was a perfect follow-up to his emotionally-charged goal against Aston Villa on Sunday, which ended a three-game losing streak, and having knocked out one of the outright favourites, the ‘Hammers’ know the odds of them winning their first continental trophy since the 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup have shortened drastically.