IF there was ever a moment when history repeated itself, now would be the time.
In 1976, in the last major European semi-final, West Ham lost the first leg 2-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt.
The East London heroes were challenged and delivered in the second leg as Sir Trevor Brooking’s scintillating doubles propelled the Hammers into the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final.
And 46 years later, David Moyes’ Europa League hopes will now have to resort to an identical recovery if they are to emulate those club icons of yore.
West Ham were just behind this time 50 SECONDS thanks to Ansgar Knauff’s powerful header from close range
Michail Antonio then equalized in the 21st minute, but Daichi Kamada gave Frankfurt an advantage again in a hard-fought draw.
The drama continued to the end as Kamada snapped up almost a second with a deflected shot off the post while Jarrod Bowen’s overhead kick hit the bar in added time.
While the ’76 boys had the comfort of playing their second leg at the Boleyn Ground, Declan Rice and his squad will have to overcome adversity in the Frankfurt Bärengraben basin next week.
But having come from behind in recent rounds to defeat six-time champions Sevilla and beat Lyon in their own backyard, there will be no lack of faith in reaching that final.
The first surprise of the evening came via the team reports – Kurt Zouma bouncing back from an ankle injury quicker than expected, despite fears he would be off the pace.
But that’s exactly how one would describe West Ham’s opening minute… out of step.
Wing-back Knauff must have watched clips of Brookings’ towering header as he practically mimicked it to silence the London stadium.
In the frantic opening seconds, Rafael Borre found himself on the edge of the box as the entire Hammers defense decided to pull back and allow him to dive in via a cross at the far post.
Pablo Fornals, watching the ball at his worst, didn’t fight back as Knauff sneaked in to force his header over Alphonse Areola.
The crowd was so stunned you could hear the net ripple.
The bubbles from the pitchside machines were still floating between the dugouts as guest coach Oliver Glasner sprinted off to celebrate with his cheering players.
Moyes was shocked. Having kept clean sheets at home against Sevilla and away against French giants Lyon, this was not the right time for a defensive error.
For a team full of Euro newcomers this would have seriously shaken them, flashbacks of near misses and capitulations on this ground over the years occurring unintentionally.
But thankfully and impressively that mistake didn’t last long as West Ham got into their groove, with Bowen the main tormentor before missing a glorious chance in the 14th minute.
Antonio laid down for Tomas Soucek with plenty of space down the middle and took Bowen out with an inch-perfect pass, only for his side try to hit the post.
Replays showed that Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp had somehow guided the ball away from the goal with the tip of his studs.
This had the feel of a game that relied on fine margins.
Those margins came into play seven minutes later when West Ham’s patient build-up earned them a free-kick that Manuel Lanzini fired into the back post.
A barely fit Zouma jumped highest and threw him over the goal while Rice and Antonio waited – the latter’s failure knocked him over the line.
Pandemonium ensued. Assistant coach Kevin Nolan did a little exercise. Meanwhile, Moyes tapped his head with his fingers, demanding concentration.
The hosts didn’t want to welcome the break but they continued to look like they were more likely to take the lead after the break when Soucek volleyed in the ground and missed the goal.
But it wasn’t long before another defensive brain freeze cost her. Djibril Sow, again lax on the edge of the box, managed to create a one-two with Jesper Lindstrom before firing a low shot from six yards out.
Areola did well coming down with a strong hand, only for the charging Kamada to do what he did for fun in Europe this season and score – his fifth in the competition.
The Japanese was initially called offside, but replays showed he was in action.
Fine edges once again.
Dreams get hurt, but it’s not over yet. The old guys watching from the stands know that better than most.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/18406925/west-ham-1-2-eintracht-frankfurt-europa-league/ Knauff and Kamada burst the Hammers bubble and Moyes’ men face a difficult task in the Europa League