Tanguy Ndombele’s second-half equaliser spoiled 10-man West Ham United’s party as Olympique Lyonnais came away from the packed-out London Stadium with a 1-1 draw. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the ‘Hammers’ in their first European quarter-final for over four decades, however, as Aaron Cresswell’s red card could have left their UEFA Europa League (UEL) bid in tatters.
From the off, it was crystal clear that Lyon had arrived in East London to play confident football, and Moussa Dembélé sent West Ham an early warning shot by volleying wide from close range. The ‘Hammers’ did fashion an opening of their own when Saïd Benrahma latched onto a raking long-ball, but his shot was comfortably saved and the visitors took every opportunity to frustrate their nervy opponents through injuries and stoppages.
Indeed, the home crowd were already on referee Felix Zwayer’s back by the time he showed red to a stunned Cresswell shortly before HT. The West Ham left-back, who described the match as “the biggest of his career”, tugged Dembélé’s arm during a dangerous break and while the Hammers can have few complaints, the contact was still soft enough for the Lyon frontman to flash a cheeky wink at his teammate.
Returning to the pitch a man light only made Jarrod Bowen’s opener even more meaningful for the raucous home support, as West Ham’s top scorer sparked bedlam when his deflected strike bounced over Anthony Lopes. Ndombele, whose energy was as impressive as it was unfamiliar on his return to London, was on hand to bail out Peter Bosz’s side shortly afterwards as Tetê’s low cross cannoned around the box and landed at his feet for a simple finish.
Shared spoils leaves the tie tantalisingly poised heading into next week’s second leg and preserves Lyon’s nine-game unbeaten run in this year’s UEL. The stakes are sky-high with neither team assured of European qualification for next season based on their league form, not to mention a potential blockbuster semi-final against Barcelona if the Catalan giants see off Eintracht Frankfurt.