Europa Semi-Final: West Ham secure a comeback win over AZ Alkmaar

West Ham United’s quest for a first European title this century is alive and well following a 2-1 comeback win over AZ Alkmaar in the sides’ UEFA Europa Conference League semifinal first leg in London on Thursday, May 11.

The Dutch side took the lead four minutes before the break when Tijjani Reijnders beat Alphonse Areola at his near post after a controversial build-up, but, after a laboured start to the second half, Said Benrahma’s penalty brought the Hammers back into the game.

Europa Semi-Final West Ham secure a comeback win over AZ Alkmaar

There was a momentum shift thereafter, and David Moyes’ side took the lead for the first time when Antonio was on hand to prod in after Nayef Aguerd’s header was cleared off the line.

Antonio’s 14th goal of the season, the best return of his eight campaigns in east London, was enough to hand West Ham the aggregate advantage heading into next Thursday’s return leg in the Netherlands.

After the match was concluded, the London club’s coach David Moyes admitted he was about to take off Michail Antonio before he gave them the lead over AZ in their European Conference League semi-final first leg.

Europa Semi-Final West Ham secure a comeback win over AZ Alkmaar

West Ham United’s 2-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar in the UEFA Europa Conference League has ensured that France will finish fifth in the UEFA index, thus ensuring that Ligue 1 will gain another Champions League spot when the format of the competition changes for the 2024/25 season.

Paris Saint-Germain were knocked out by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, whilst FC Nantes, Stade Rennais, and AS Monaco slumped to disappointing defeats in the opening knockout round of the UEFA Europa League. That left OGC Nice as France’s last man standing, but they were knocked out in the quarter-final of the UEFA Europa Conference League by FC Basel.

That result took France’s destiny out of their own hands and meant that they were reliant upon other teams to knock out the remaining Eredivisie sides. Alkmaar are the only Dutch side remaining, but regardless of whether they overturn their 2-1 deficit, or not, it will be insufficient to help the Dutch league climb above the French league.

Alkmaar needed to win both legs against West Ham, as well as the final to secure the fifth spot in the UEFA index rankings. However, West Ham’s win now means three Ligue 1 clubs will qualify directly for the Champions League, whilst another will pass through the playoffs. Two clubs will directly qualify for the Europa League and one for the UEFA Conference League.

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