April 13, 2024

West Ham remain well placed to make back-to-back European semi-finals despite seeing their 100% winning run in the Europa Conference League ended by Gent.

The Hammers looked on course to make it 11 wins out of 11 in Europe this season when Danny Ings tapped home after the hosts were caught out by a quickly taken throw-in.

David Moyes’ side, Europa League semi-finalists last season, had to soak up waves of pressure in an intense quarter-final first leg in Belgium and Gent equalised after a clever touch and finish by Hugo Cuypers.

“I didn’t think the performance was good but the result was not a bad result,” West Ham boss Moyes said.

“I think you will find everyone has worked really hard to be here and they don’t want to give up a chance to make a semi-final.”

The hosts piled forward in search of a winner to take into next week’s return leg, with Gift Orban – who scored a hat-trick in 205 seconds in the last round – hitting the bar with a wonderful 82nd-minute acrobatic attempt.

There was drama deep in stoppage time when Gent’s Kamil Piatkowski was shown a red card for bringing down substitute Lucas Paqueta, but it was overturned after the referee watched the incident again on the pitchside monitor.

West Ham's Nayef Aguerd challenges the Gent keeper in the Europa Conference League
West Ham had a goal ruled out for handball before they took the lead in Belgium

Hammers relieved to escape with draw

In the end West Ham were relieved to emerge with a draw following a dramatic finish, which was capped by the red card that was quickly rescinded.

Quick on the counter, Gent caused problems throughout and the Hammers know they will have to play better when the teams meet again next Thursday at London Stadium.

“We’re away from home, facing a strong crowd, and Gent played very well,” added Moyes. “Hopefully we can show them a bit more about how we play when we see them next Thursday.”

Moyes’ side, however, will still be confident of finishing the job in front of their own fans.

They will be without Angelo Ogbonna for the return after the defender was booked soon after receiving lengthy treatment when he landed heavily on his back following an aerial challenge in the first half.

This was a night when the Hammers had to dig deep, with Ben Johnson and Declan Rice making important challenges to stop Gent from scoring as Orban and Cuypers threatened.

Gent controlled most of the first half but West Ham thought they had scored when keeper Davy Roef dropped the ball at the feet of Nayef Aguerd following a corner – only for the English side’s celebrations to be cut short after a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check for handball.

The Hammers were celebrating, however, as Ings scored his first European club goal in first-half injury time from a low cross by Jarrod Bowen following a quickly taken throw-in by Vladimir Coufal.

But Gent equalised in the 56th minute through Belgian forward Cuypers after a well-worked move to set up an intriguing second leg.

“That’s the reason we brought Danny [Ings] in, because he has got goals in him,” added Moyes. “If we create chances, he will take them.

“We didn’t create enough tonight, we didn’t build well enough and made it difficult for ourselves. We were more liable to score a second on the counter, but it didn’t materialise.”

Credit: By Neil JohnstonBBC Sport

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