IF EVER there was a moment for history to repeat itself, now would be the time.
It was in 1976 — their last major European semi-final — that West Ham suffered a first-leg 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Daichi Kamada is up and celebrating after giving Frankfurt a vital first-leg advantageCredit: Reuters
West ham appeal in vain as Daichi Kamada nips in for a match-winning goalCredit: EPA
East London heroes were called upon and they delivered in the second leg as Sir Trevor Brooking’s scintillating double sent the Hammers to the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup final.
And 46 years on, David Moyes’ Europa League hopefuls now find themselves in need of an identical recovery if they are to emulate those club icons of yesteryear.
On this occasion West Ham were behind after just 50 SECONDS thanks to Ansgar Knauff’s emphatic close-range header
Michail Antonio then levelled things up in the 21st minute, only for Daichi Kamada to make it advantage Frankfurt once more in a tightly-contested tie.
Drama continued until the end as Kamada almost grabbed a second with a deflected effort on to the post, while Jarrod Bowen’s injury-time bicycle kick hit the bar.
Whereas the boys of ’76 had the comfort of playing their second leg at the Boleyn Ground, Declan Rice and his troops must overcome the odds in the cauldron of Frankfurt’s bear pit next week.
But having come from behind in previous rounds to see off six-time champions Sevilla and thump Lyon in their own backyard, there will be no shortage of belief of making that final.
The first surprise of the night came via the teamsheets — Kurt Zouma making a quicker-than-expected return from an ankle injury despite fears he would be off the pace.
But that is exactly how you would describe West Ham’s opening minute… off the pace.
Wing-back Knauff must have been watching clips of Brooking’s towering header as he practically emulated it to silence the London Stadium.
The frantic opening seconds saw Rafael Borre find himself on the edge of the box as Hammers’ entire defence decided to back off and allow him to dink over a far-post cross.
Ball-watching at its very worst, Pablo Fornals put up no fight as Knauff snuck in to power his header across Alphonse Areola.
So stunned were the crowd, you could hear the net ripple.
The bubbles from the pitchside machines were still floating among the dugouts as visiting boss Oliver Glasner sprinted off to celebrate with his jubilant players.
Moyes was shell-shocked. After keeping clean sheets at home to Sevilla and away to French giants Lyon, this was not the moment for a defensive lapse.
For a team full of Euro novices, this would have seriously shaken them, flashbacks of near misses and capitulations at this ground over the years making unwanted appearances.
But thankfully, and impressively, that lapse did not last long as West Ham got into their groove, with Bowen the prime tormentor before wasting a glorious chance in the 14th minute.
Warrod Bowen can’t believe it as his volley failed to cross the lineCredit: Jamie McPhilimey
West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen thundered this incredible overhead effort off the bar in stoppage timeCredit: Jamie McPhilimey
West Ham’s Michail Antonio clips the home side level midway in the first halfCredit: AP
Antonio laid off for Tomas Soucek with acres of space down the middle, picking out Bowen with an inch- perfect pass only for his side-footed effort to smack off the post.
Replays showed Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp had somehow diverted the ball away from goal with the top of his studs.
This had the feeling of a game relying on fine margins.
Those margins came into play seven minutes later as West Ham’s patient build-up earned them a free-kick that Manuel Lanzini clipped towards the back post.
A barely-fit Zouma leapt highest and knocked it across goal, with Rice and Antonio waiting — the latter’s lunge nudging it over the line.
Pandemonium ensued. Assistant coach Kevin Nolan did a little jig. Moyes meanwhile tapped his fingers to his head and demanded focus.
Ansgar Knauff stoops to nod Eintracht in front early onCredit: Reuters
The Hammers celebrate after Michail Antonio bags a temporary equaliserCredit: Jamie McPhilimey
The break was unwelcomed by the hosts but they continued to look the more likely to take the lead after the break as Soucek volleyed into the ground and wide.
Yet it did not take long for another defensive brain-freeze to cost them. With marking lax yet again on the edge of the box, Djibril Sow managed to pull off a one-two with Jesper Lindstrom before firing a low shot from six yards.
Areola did well to get down with a strong hand only for the onrushing Kamada to do what he has done for fun in Europe this season and score — his fifth of the competition.
Initially there were calls against the Japanese for offside, but replays showed he was on.
Fine margins once more.
Dreams will be bruised but this isn’t over. The old boys watching from the stands know that more than most.
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