The game was eight minutes deep in added time when Craig Dawson won a commanding header, went into a 50-50 challenge and stretched every tendon in his body to crush another Lyon player for good measure. It summed up West Ham’s resilience through a grueling second half and, once their anger at Felix Zwayer’s refereeing subsided, David Moyes will look back on his side’s efforts and conclude their European dream is far from over.
There was no need to be glum considering West Ham could have crumbled following Aaron Cresswell’s controversial dismissal for fouls Moussa Dembélé just before half-time. The regrets belonged above all to Lyon. They created little against 10 men and West Ham capitalized on their sense of injustice, slipping past Jarrod Bowen and struggling to hold on after Tanguy Ndombele equalized with 24 minutes to go.
“The game is really up for grabs,” said Moyes, who declined to be fired on Zwayer’s dismissal from Cresswell. The West Ham manager was more interested in talking about how his team limited Lyon. “We defended very well,” Moyes said. “You have to know how to defend as well as attack.”
Ultimately, it was another example of the unity Moyes instilled at the London stadium. He will be very useful to West Ham when the Europa League quarter-final resumes at the Stade Gerland next week. They are not used to turning around easily and have shown that they can hurt the Lyon defence.
“We have the ability to score,” said Moyes, who hopes there will be more to come from his attack. West Ham were too frantic in possession at times and the worry is that they will live to regret Michail Antonio’s failure to convert a decent chance shortly before Ndombele’s goal.
Lyon were Champions League semi-finalists two years ago and are good enough to punish any negligence despite being ninth in Ligue 1. They are an experienced team and have been quicker to settle than West Ham, who were playing in their first European quarter-final since 1981. Ndombele and Thiago Mendes kept the ball away from Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek for long stretches and Lyon almost led early, Dembélé turning away Lucas Paquetá’s cross.
West Ham’s moments came at the break. They threatened when Dawson released Saïd Benrahma, which was denied by Anthony Lopes, and again when Antonio’s shot was blocked by Castello Lukeba.
The game has become suspicious. It looked unlikely that Moyes would wait on the touchline to reprimand the officials at half-time, with the West Ham manager glowing after Cresswell’s foul on Dembélé was deemed to have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity.
It was questionable coming from Zwayer, who had dismissed Bowen’s calls for a free-kick moments before Houssem Aouar sent Dembélé running past Kurt Zouma. Dembélé even gave his teammates a wink after Cresswell was ordered to leave. The striker’s throw-in sent him away from goal, as Zouma covered, and it was ridiculous there was no VAR intervention.
The decision stood and Moyes was booked for his protests. He was in a fighting mood. He later slammed a fan who ran onto the pitch in the second half, stopping a promising West Ham attack and raising the prospect of a UEFA investigation. “I was baffled,” Moyes said. “These things don’t help the team.”
West Ham deserved better. Moyes had strengthened his defense at half-time, Benrahma making way for Ben Johnson, but he had a plan of attack. Lyon were vulnerable at the break and they trailed when Malo Gusto failed to stop a Pablo Fornals run. Fornals pushed the ball over Jérôme Boateng and it went through Bowen, whose messy shot hit the Lyon defender and bounced off Lopes.
The noise was unbelievable as the ball went in and West Ham chased a second with Antonio closing in. It was a pivotal moment. Peter Bosz rejuvenates his team by bringing in Tetê and Karl Toko Ekambi, and the Lyon threat increases. They had more width and the change paid off when Tetê dribbled past Johnson and drilled a ball which Alphonse Areola and Ryan Fredericks failed to clear, allowing Ndombele to score. West Ham had finally cracked. Full time, however, they still had hope.