UEFA's Technical Observer panel take a closer look at West Ham's stunning win against six-time winners Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League round of 16.
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West Ham United gave their supporters a night to remember last Thursday as they beat Sevilla 2-0 at the London Stadium to advance to a UEFA Europa League quarter-final against Olympique Lyonnais.
In this article presented by Swissquote, UEFA's technical observer panel reflects on the factors behind the English side’s impressive victory – from their use of the flanks to the outstanding leadership of captain Declan Rice.As it happened: West Ham 2-0 Sevilla
1-0: Tomáš Souček (39)
Souček’s first goal of this European campaign highlighted both his aerial ability and the line-leading capabilities of No9 Michail Antonio. After a Pablo Fornals interception, Antonio played a key role, receiving the ball from the Spaniard, turning and then feeding Said Benrahma who was approaching the left corner of the Sevilla box. Antonio, now in the D, received the ball back from Benrahma and showed excellent control and strength as he held off two Sevilla defenders before moving into the space vacated by Benrahma and crossing to the far post. There Souček rose to direct a strong, controlled header back beyond Yassine Bounou and into the far corner.
2-0: Andriy Yarmolenko (112)
An 88th-minute substitute, the Ukrainian made a big impact on his introduction, controlling the ball well to give his colleagues time to recover and move up the pitch, and then scoring the crucial second goal. Antonio again played a part, showing his strength once more as he held on to the ball under pressure from two markers and slipped a pass inside to Manuel Lanzini who found Fornals over on the left. He came inside and unleashed a low right-foot shot which bounced just in front of goalkeeper Bounou. The Moroccan had earlier underlined his class with some fine saves and bravery in set-piece situations but now he could only parry the ball and Yarmolenko converted from close range.
In possession, West Ham had a well-organised, well-balanced 1-4-3-3 shape. Rice (41) and Lanzini (10) played key roles in coming deep to ask for the ball between the lines and providing options for the central defenders as they built from the back. Rice, in particular, excelled as the link between defence and attack, and was tireless both in and out of possession.
Higher upfield, wide attackers Fornals (8) and Benrahma (22) dropped deep and inside at times to open up the flanks for full-backs Ben Johnson (31) and Aaron Cresswell (3). As highlighted by the second goal, the hard-working Fornals connected well with the midfield and created many good offensive moves.
Out of possession the UEFA observer noted how Lanzini and Souček (28) supported Antonio (9) with pressing in the centre, while Fornals (8) and Benrahma (22) dropped wide to watch potential forward runs by Sevilla's full-backs. Rather than press high all the time, West Ham fell back into a compact team shape that looked more like a 1-4-4-2 out of possession.
Sevilla started with a compact 1-4-3-3 formation both in and out of possession. Full backs Jesús Navas (16) and Ludwig Augustinsson (3) looked to push forward with Tecatito Corona (9) and Anthony Martial (22) moving inside to vacate space for them. One aspect of their build-up play involved the forwards dropping deep to provide options for short passing sequences. When West Ham’s pressing make such combinations impossible, the visitors looked for longer balls towards target man Youssef En-Nesyri (15) who either tried to hold the ball or flick it on for forward runs by players like Corona and Joan Jordán (8).
Out of possession, Corona and Martial tried to stop the forward runs from West Ham's full-backs while Ivan Rakitić (10) and Jordán supported En-Nesyri in defending the central areas and Thomas Delaney (18) dropped in front of his back four.
The video above highlights West Ham’s effective use of width. The first clip, for example, shows one of their long diagonal passes to switch sides in an attempt to find space not covered by Sevilla's compact defensive shape. Full-backs Johnson and Cresswell were involved on a regular basis and each contributed five crosses from open play.
The second clip (64:31) shows another attack where David Moyes’s men changed sides, giving another example of how their compact team shape allowed them to bring players quickly into dangerous positions. Rice, always scanning the area around him, was instrumental, and he and Lanzini dictated play throughout. Crucially, as UEFA’s observer noted, they remained calm on the ball amid the pressure of the occasion, showing the composure to delay moves if team-mates were not yet been in position or, alternately, to act quickly if there was space to exploit.
This leads us on to the impressive emotional control showed by a West Ham side playing at this stage of a UEFA competition for the first time in four decades against the UEFA Europa League’s experienced six-times winners. Moyes could be seen regularly gesturing to his players to keep calm and play with patience, and it was a message Rice, as captain, was communicating too.
Rice spoke afterwards of the plan to “press them”, “play with high intensity” and “outrun them” and the trio of him, Lanzini and Souček sustained an exceptional work rate. Indeed Rice himself ended the night with more recoveries (nine) than any other player on the pitch. Sevilla goalkeeper Bounou admitted his team “got very tired” in extra time and the UEFA observer suggested the visitors had struggled with the power and physical intensity of the home side. Nobody embodied those qualities better than Antonio who not only kept the ball well, allowing colleagues to move up the pitch, but was involved in more duels (25) than any other player in UEFA Europa League action last week.
From a Sevilla perspective, they struggled initially to progress the ball in the face of their compact, aggressive opponents. There was a crucial save by home goalkeeper Alphonse Areola to deny En-Nesyri at 0-0 but though they had 929 touches – a total only bettered in last week’s second legs by city rivals Real Betis – the visitors only managed two shots on target compared with eight by West Ham.
Several Sevilla players still showed their class in defeat with Jordán instrumental in his side settling after a difficult start, notably with his work in receiving balls in the midfield and finding a way beyond or in behind West Ham’s pressing line. Corona offered good vertical runs and there was also praise from the UEFA observer for the robust Nemanja Gudelj, who, deputising for injured centre-back Diego Carlos, provided organisation and won some crucial headers. Indeed his departure for the inexperienced José Ángel Carmona – a player with only one prior senior appearance – came 60 seconds before the goal that sealed their fate.
David Moyes, West Ham coach
"I thought our players from the first minute were bang at it and never let them off the hook all night. [There were] periods when they improved but in the main, I thought we were so good.
“We talked a lot for two days about how we would manage the game, not gung-ho but [at] good speed … Being 1-0 down it gave us something to chase as we were not favourites tonight and we got ourselves in a position to have a go and you cannot fault the way we went about the job, so great credit to the players."
Julen Lopetegui, Sevilla coach
"We’ve succumbed to a good team, a tough team from the Premier League. We tried to compete and to stand up to them. This is a ground which is difficult to come to even at full strength. We had a significant number of injuries and the lads tried. You have to praise their attitude and character during these difficult few months."