SC Freiburg 1-0 West Ham: Irons defeated as Gregoritsch hands hosts first-leg lead

Having lifted European silverware last term, West Ham returned to the knockout stages of a continental competition on Thursday as they faced SC Freiburg – with the hosts lingering in the mid-table depths of the Bundesliga.

SCF: Atubolu; Günter, Guide, Ginter, Sildillia; Höfler; Grifo, Höler, Eggestein, Doan; Sallai

WHU: Fabianski; Emerson, Zouma, Mavropanos, Coufal; Álvarez, Soucek; Paquetá, Ward-Prowse, Kudus; Bowen

Thursday’s round-of-sixteen clash came as the third time these two sides have met in the UEFA Europa League this season, with West Ham United emerging victorious on both prior occasions.

Against an out-of-form SC Freiburg side that has claimed just one win in regulation time since the turn of the calendar year, West Ham United should have found themselves ahead – and perhaps by more than one goal.

Mohammed Kudus’ crosses looked set to be the Hammers best creative outlet, but Jarrod Bowen and Lucas Paquetá both failed to find the target as they latched onto promising deliveries from the Ghanaian international.

But despite their stronger showing, West Ham United found themselves trailing with less than ten minutes remaining of this first leg tie, when Michael Gregoritsch picked up the pieces from a poor Roland Sallai effort to find the back of the net just minutes after his substitute introduction.

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David Moyes’ side felt they were deserving of a stoppage time penalty as concerns were raised about a potential handball offence by Noah Weißhaupt – but a lengthy VAR review found that the substitute had done no wrong and the visitors were forced to settle for a disappointing loss on the continent.

West Ham will welcome SC Freiburg to London Stadium next Thursday, with the Hammers needing a win to keep the European dream alive. Before that though, they host Burnley on Sunday in the Premier League.