Leicester and Rangers do it the hard way, West Ham thump Lyon – Europa League and Europa Conference League hits and misses

The perfect away performance from West Ham

Ahead of any quarter-final second leg in Europe, there will be nerves. But perhaps the pressure was heightened a little given West Ham went into the game with five successive away defeats in all competitions, and made three changes to their defensive line-up from the first leg.

But it proved to be that there was little to be concerned about as West Ham produced the perfect away performance to secure their place in the Europa League’s final four.

Despite the defensive changes, West Ham were there at every juncture to stop a talented Lyon attack that includes Moussa Dembele, Houssem Aouar and Karl Toko Ekambi. Even when they were at their best inside the opening half an hour, the Hammers stood up to every task.

West Ham celebrate with their fans after reaching the Europa League semi-finals

Perhaps one of Lyon’s errors was trying to use the ball aerially too often. West Ham have some tall players in their ranks and won most of those battles in the air, even without the presence of Kurt Zouma to boost them further.

At the other end, they took advantage of Lyon’s own defensive shortcomings to devastating effect – all three of the scorers were unmarked for their goals.

Craig Dawson was ahead of Dembele, Declan Rice had plenty of space at the top of the area to shape his shot and Jarrod Bowen’s run was not tracked, or not until it was too late by Castello Lukeba.

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West Ham manager David Moyes praised how far his side has come in such a short period after reaching the semi final of the Europa League

On all three occasions, West Ham took full advantage. West Ham had fewer shots, but more on target. Fourteen of Lyon’s 17 shots were off-target or blocked, further demonstrating how well David Moyes’ side defended.

Declan Rice later told BT Sport: “We knew it was a tough place to come, we knew they had top individual quality, but we knew with what we had on the pitch, our attacking players and what we had seen in the first game with them defensively, we knew we could score goals tonight.”

Then there was the simple things – West Ham simply wanted it more. Not since 1976 have they reached a European semi-final and at the end of every tie, you see how much reaching the next stage means to them.

It could be a Hollywood ending for Mark Noble, with one of his final games potentially being the Europa League final in Seville on May 18. A winning goal in extra-time? Stranger things have happened.
Charlotte Marsh

If at first you don’t succeed… Roofe eventually sends Rangers into semis

Rangers' Kemar Roofe celebrates after scoring in extra-time against Braga
Rangers’ Kemar Roofe celebrates after scoring in extra-time against Braga

A header chalked off for handball in the build-up. A shot against the bar from two yards out. A lob disallowed for offside. It seemed like Thursday just wasn’t going to be Kemar Roofe’s day.

But his persistence paid off when he popped up in the 101st minute to score the vital goal in extra-time to send Rangers into their first European semi-final in 14 years.

It’s been some week for the forward, who hit his first Rangers hat-trick at the weekend against St Mirren. The absence of injured Alfredo Morelos was seen as a big factor in Rangers’ poor first-leg defeat away to Braga but Roofe has shown his own strengths in the past few days.

Speaking afterwards, Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronkhorst said that treble on Sunday had given Roofe confidence and belief ahead of this huge second leg with Braga.

But the frontman was also brilliantly supported, with full-backs James Tavernier – who would have had the headlines to himself if Rangers hadn’t been pegged back late on – and Borna Barisic superb in wide areas, and Joe Aribo and Aaron Ramsey excellent through the middle.

Those players will need to go again at Hampden on Sunday against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-finals but, as Van Bronkhorst said, Rangers won’t be complaining about their hectic run-in now, with silverware in their sights.

The league may not be going to plan but there are exciting moments ahead for this Rangers side.
Peter Smith

Dewsbury-Hall puts in best Leicester outing yet

It’s been a great breakout season for Leicester’s Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, but his role in Leicester’s 2-1 comeback win over PSV Eindhoven is the tip of his campaign iceberg.

The Foxes struggled with their final ball against their Dutch opponents but their build-up was next to flawless. That was because their 22-year-old gem carried them into good areas and kept the ball moving at all times.

Then, when Rodgers required a bit of additional tempo to chase down PSV’s lead, that’s when Dewsbury-Hall stepped up.

The midfielder helped the Foxes play more unpredictable passes in a crucial part of the game – such as the one around the corner to Ademola Lookman to set up Ricardo Pereira’s winner – and that led Leicester men to victory.

Leicester City's Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall battles with PSV Eindhoven's Eran Zahavi
Leicester City’s Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall battles with PSV Eindhoven’s Eran Zahavi

As Rodgers said after the game, Leicester are a young and inexperienced side when it comes to playing in Europe, but nights like beating the 1998 European Cup winners will do the likes of Dewsbury-Hall the world of good.

And if the 22-year-old keeps up this level of display, just how far could the midfielder rise in the game?
Sam Blitz

Europa League/Conference League semi-finals

Europa League semi-finals:

RB Leipzig vs Rangers

West Ham vs Eintracht Frankfurt

Europa Conference League semi-finals:

Leicester vs Roma

Feyenoord vs Marseille

Ties played on April 28 and May 5

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