West Ham 1-1 (1-3 agg) Bayer Leverkusen: Hammers left fuming with referee as Europa League run comes to an end

West Ham United bowed out of European competition on Thursday night, despite coming just minutes away from bringing an end to Bayer Leverkusen’s colossal unbeaten run.

Trailing by two goals after a late defeat at the BayArena last week, Michail Antonio’s first-half header in East London was the very least that the Hammers deserved for their dominance – and an attacking performance that saw Odilon Kossounou withdrawn after just thirty minutes after a dismal start.

Wholesale changes at the break, coupled with questionable decisions from the Spanish referee, seemed to shore up a shaken Leverkusen side who were ultimately able to add to their aggregate advantage in the 89th minute through Jeremie Frimpong.

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As it happened

Bayer Leverkusen’s first-ever Bundesliga title was celebrated euphorically over the weekend, with their league victory confirmed after Sunday’s 5-0 home victory over Werder Bremen.

But four days on, Xabi Alonso’s side looked hungover as they ventured to the London Stadium – with the Hammers placing the visitors under the cosh from the very start.

Odilon Kossounou was nothing short of a liability at the heart of the Leverkusen defence, and it was perhaps a miracle that it took as long as it did for West Ham to snatch the lead on the night.

The majority of the sellout crowd in Stratford were on their feet after thirteen minutes on Thursday, as Michail Antonio nodded a Jarrod Bowen delivery from deep past Matej Kovar. 

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Chances kept flowing for David Moyes’ men, with Kovar by far the busier of the two goalkeepers as the half matured. The ex-Manchester United shotstopper was called into action to deny Bowen and Antonio again – before the match descended into bedlam on the half-hour mark.

Red cards were shown to one member of each team’s technical staff after a scuffle on the touchline – but while José Maria Sánchez was distributing those bookings, Antonio sparked a brawl that left him and Jonathan Tah with yellow cards.

But Antonio’s prowess in front of goal continued, and the forward was perhaps unliucky not to have added to his personal tally and restored parity by the break – with Kovar and Piero Hincapie the leading figures in Bayer Leverkusen’s damage limitation mission.

Xabi Alonso demonstrated at the interval that he is certainly not afraid of making the required substitutions – having already withdrawn the subpar Kossounou after thirty minutes, Nathan Tella and Patrik Schick also made way ahead of the second half.

The action was certainly subdued after the break, but that’s not to say there weren’t chances. Florian Wirtz scuffed a shot from inside the box just minutes after play resumed, squandering a golden opportunity to restore parity on the night after finding himself unmarked.

José Maria Sánchez would certainly rank high on the list of East London’s most wanted by the time his full-time whistle rang around London Stadium – the Spaniard booked Vladimir Coufal and Kurt Zouma for their protests after a clear West Ham throw-in was awarded to the visitors, having already made a number of controversial calls throughout the evening.

For 89 minutes, nobody could have questioned West Ham’s determination. The Hammers were spirited, smart and stood every chance of providing an upset – but it was a late effort from Jeremie Frimpong that restored parity on the night, stealing even the solace of ending Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten run away from David Moyes’ men.

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The lineups

WHU: Fabiański; Cresswell, Zouma, Aguerd, Coufal; Souček, Álvarez, Ward-Prowse; Bowen, Antonio, Kudus

B04: Kovár; Hincapie, Tah, Kossounou, Stanišić; Palacios, Xhaka; Grimaldo, Wirtz, Tella; Schick