HomeSportsDeclan Rice's stunner leads West Ham to Europa Conference League semi-finals

Declan Rice’s stunner leads West Ham to Europa Conference League semi-finals

Michail Antonio scored twice and Declan Rice scored a superb solo goal as West Ham progressed to the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

The Hammers fell a goal behind Belgian side Gent, but struck back for a resounding 4-1 win on the night and 5-2 on aggregate.

It marks a continental semi-final for the second consecutive year for David Moyes’ team, having reached the same stretch of the Europa League last season.

Moyes arguably chose their strongest available side, having managed to create a bit of a breather between them and the Premier League bottom three.

But Gent should have scored with their first attack: Sven Kuma produced a dangerous cross that Gift Orban and Hugo Cuypers missed in front of goal.

West Ham came close when Kurt Zouma headed in Vladimir Coufal’s free-kick, before long delays ensued when Coufal and Nayef Aguerd required treatment for head injuries.

But it was Lucas Paquetá who appeared to have taken a blow to the head when his lazy pass through the middle was easily intercepted.

Orban was able to charge forward and square off Matisse Samoise, unmarked on the right. His first shot bounced off the ground and rose for Cuypers to hit despite Aguerd’s best efforts on the goal line.

But West Ham equalized before half time when Antonio found a Jarrod Bowen free-kick hard at the near post.

Moyes insisted that West Ham should have had a penalty when Said Benrahma’s header hit Samoise’s arm, but referee Orel Grinfeeld gave nothing.

The hosts should have taken the lead four minutes into the second half when Bowen rolled the ball through to Tomas Soucek, who attacked his shot well but smashed it off the crossbar.

Then came a truly chaotic run of play amid a handball claim, which saw Bowen’s shot saved by Davy Roef before Antonio hit the foot of the far post.

When play was finally stopped, Grinfeeld was called to the pitch monitor and decided, correctly, that Joseph Okumu had driven as he stumbled in the box.

Paquetá, eager to make amends for his mistake, took the ball from Benrahma and shot confidently from the penalty spot.

Rice capped off a magnificent performance with a memorable goal after winning the ball in her own half. The England midfielder ran down the middle of the field, evading two challenges before passing the ball to Roef.

Antonio rounded out the scoring with another spectacular goal after Paquetá sent him off to book a semi-final the next month against Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.



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