Eintracht Frankfurt winger Ansgar Knauff opened the scoring in the first minute as they beat West Ham United 2-1 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday, with both sides seeking their first European final besides 40 years old.
The last time the two sides met in the semi-finals of European competition, West Ham won the home leg to reach the 1976 Cup Winners’ Cup final. The visitors, however, stunned the David Moyes’ men 49 seconds into the first half when Rafael Borre set up Knauff with a cross from the corner of the box and the 20-year-old headed home, silencing the 60,000 spectators at ticket offices closed. London Stadium.
After sending Barcelona heavyweights home in the quarter-finals, the Eintracht players did not want to waste the opportunity that presented itself to them in the last four. “I don’t know if I’m doing anything special. But against Barcelona we put them under pressure from the start,” Knauff told reporters.
West Ham had several chances to equalize the score, notably in the 14th minute when Jarrod Bowen received a fine pass in the box but his effort bounced off the right post. The Premier League side finally equalized in the 21st minute after Kurt Zouma connected with a free kick and nodded forward Michail Antonio, who made it 1-1 from close range.
“Today was not one of our best performances,” Antonio said. “It wasn’t how we wanted to start the game. We took control of the game and created chances that we didn’t take. It’s all to play for. It’s not over. We’re here to win it.”
Knauff could have put Eintracht ahead before half-time, but his attempt from inside the box was a long way from the right post. But Eintracht regained the advantage in the 54th. West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola stopped a shot from midfielder Djibril Sow but failed to save Daichi Kamada’s follow-up strike.
The Japan international, who netted his fifth Europa League goal this season, had a chance to score again in the 79th minute but his shot from close range smashed into the post. “The first goal of course gave us a boost. But their goal didn’t bring us down, we recovered well,” Knauff said.
Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp added: “I’m not surprised by our performance. We can do it if we’re fully focused, we’ve proven that many times.” Tonight was another highlight for us. We wanted to take the first step towards the final.”
West Ham, who progressed to the semi-final after overpowering Olympique Lyonnais, continued to search for an equalizer but were unlucky as Bowen’s superb bicycle kick near the penalty spot shook the bar in stoppage time. In the other semi-final, RB Leipzig cruised to a 1-0 victory over visiting Rangers, with the two return legs set to be played on May 5.
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