UKRAINE international Andriy Yarmolenko scored an emotional goal in extra time to seal a stunning Europa League Round of 16 win over Sevilla.
The Hammers knocked out the six-time winners of the competition after a 2-0 win in an electrically charged London stadium.
Yarmolenko appeared in the right place at the right time to hit the back net after Pablo Fornals’ long-range shot was saved.
Right from the start it felt like one of the biggest games in west hams Story would always take more than 90 minutes.
Not that any Hammers fan complained after Tomas Soucek’s 39th a tiny header that levels the aggregate – that was the sheer intensity and emphatic character of this game.
Heading into extra time, the first major European quarter-finals in 41 years was still alive.
And never before has a match in the Europa League – often referred to as the second-rate competition of the European elite – been so gripping.
David Moyes’ Page were the instigators in this regard.
Six-time champions Sevilla have never had it so difficult against English opponents, shrouded in an atmosphere of nervousness and anticipation.
Super Saturday at the London 2012 Olympics will always claim to have the best moment in this arena – three gold medals in a pulsating 44 minutes for Team GB.
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But the narrative was set in the days before this one, before seeping into the ground via the stadium announcer: the biggest football match in London Stadium history.
Since West Ham set up camp here in 2016, the London Stadium has gone by many names – soulless, lifeless, perhaps too big and too ambitious for the club trying to fill it.
But none of that was true given the pre-game scenes rarely seen in these areas – not since Moyes left for that European roadshow with the Hammers.
Tonight it had the lot. The noise: deafening. The lights: mesmerizing. The DJ loaned out from Wembley after his antics at Euro 2020: contagious.
Both teams emerged from the tunnel to a cacophony of madness from the stands.
The club promised there would be no empty seat in this 60,000-seat arena, and the fans delivered.
Now it was time for the players to do the same. The first leg was characterized by missed chances and wasted opportunities, the second leg went in this direction early on.
Manuel Lanzini’s chip across the Sevilla back line allowed Fornals to drop it over his shoulder, but his volley was well blocked by Nemanja Gudelj.
Sevilla’s returning midfield veterans Ivan Rakitic and Thomas Delaney helped stem the tide, briefly dampening an exuberant crowd with excellent ball handling.
Anthony Martial – this time from the off – Ludwig Augustinsson played on the left and his cut-back got Youssef En-Nesyri in the shot.
The effort was bubbling but Alphonse Areola pared it down with a stunning reflex save.
The Hammers survived and almost hit back thanks to a brilliant, skillful pass from Said Benrahma, only for Mikhail Antonio to parry his attempt and Gudelj Soucek to deny a tap-in.
The Czech midfielder was soon to retaliate with six minutes remaining. Antonio made up for his rebound with a pinpoint cross at the far post after fighting for space.
Soucek noticed the disparity against Augustinsson and flicked his header into the side netting. Cue pandemonium. keyword delirium. Cue Madman Moyes hops along the sidelines.
God knows what the Scot would have done had Soucek fired back seconds after the break and jabbed Yassine Bounou’s hands from the edge of the box.
Such was the dominance of Moyes’ men – the euro newcomers – that Julen Lopetegui was forced into changes he probably hadn’t foreseen.
Rakitic – arguably the most influential player on the pitch – was pulled off the pitch after just 56 minutes to stop Declan Rice from creating from deep.
It made little difference. West Ham purred, on the cusp of that elusive second. Lanzini was denied by Bounou twice in quick succession.
For such an experienced team in these big moments – especially on English soil – the visitors were downright unsettled.
As the minutes ticked by, there seemed to be an acceptance of extra time.
Yarmolenko’s fresh legs were taken the distance in anticipation of that one.
And it was indeed Yarmolenko who scored the winning goal in extra time to complete the most perfect script of all.
After the game, Skipper Rice said, “It was so special. This club, this stadium, fans and players deserve these big European nights.
“That resilience that boss David Moyes has in us, that desire that we have, topped the best night I’ve had at West Ham.
“I’ll take everyone in the draw, there’s nobody to worry about. People thought we had the toughest draw and we knocked them out. I’m ready for everyone.
“It would be special to go to Barcelona.”
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/17986811/west-ham-sevilla-report-europa-league/ Yarmolenko scores an emotional winner in overtime as the Hammers reach the Europa League quarter