UEFA Europa League
KO: 20:00
Stadion am Wolfswinkel
SC Freiburg
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Sunday 21st April 2024
KO - 15:00
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SC Freiburg 1-0 West Ham United
UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg, Stadion am Wolfswinkel, Thursday 7 March 2024, 9pm CET (8pm GMT)

West Ham United will need to come from behind to progress to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League after falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their round of 16 clash against SC Freiburg in Germany.

After an early burst from the Breisgau Brazilians, neither team looked too likely to break the deadlock ahead of the break, with Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus arguably the most likely for David Moyes’ men.

The game opened up in the second half and Dinos Mavropanos and Lucas Paquetá spurned good opportunities to score, before Freiburg substitute Michael Gregoritsch popped up with the winner with nine minutes to go.

The teams will do it again in east London next Thursday with a spot in the last eight at stake, following West Ham’s next clash at home to Burnley on Sunday, back in the Premier League.

Boss Moyes made one change to the XI that started the 3-1 Premier League win over Everton last time out, with goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański coming in for his 15th appearance of the season in place of Alphonse Areola.

The first chance of the evening came the way of the hosts within the first 30 seconds, Vladimír Coufal producing a vital, last-ditch tackle to deny Roland Sallai from point-blank range after the latter had seemed to win the race to a low cross.

Freiburg continued to launch several looping crosses into the away box, but centre-back pairing Mavropanos and Kurt Zouma dealt with the danger comfortably, while Kudus and Tomáš Souček were central to West Ham’s first murmurs up front.

The hosts largely controlled possession past the 15-minute mark, without being able to properly test Fabiański between the sticks, and then at the other end Bowen had a go at goal but could only divert his angled effort straight at Noah Atubolu.

After demonstrating good patience, the Hammers gradually gained a foothold in the contest, and a neat move down the right saw a Bowen flick tee up Kudus, who could only shoot wildly off target in the 22nd minute.

Fabiański was called into action to keep out Lucas Höler seconds after the half-hour mark, before Bowen helped himself to a good chance at the back post for the Irons but couldn’t properly connect with Kudus’ looping ball.

A booking arrived for home right-back Kiliann Sildillia close to half-time, for a cynical foul on Edson Álvarez in the middle of the park, and neither side was able to carve out another opportunity of note ahead of ref Alejandro Hernández’s whistle.

The second 45 got off to a fast start, with Kudus lashing a powerful, low drive down the throat of Atubolu, moments before a deflected Sallai scissor-kick bobbled into Fabiański’s path.

The chances continued to flow, and a blocked Paquetá volley preceded a Mavropanos back-post header that hit the post, and then a Coufal drive that flashed well wide.

Paquetá was at the centre of the action either side of the hour mark, first being controversially booked for a challenge on Ritsu Dōan, before skewing a decent headed chance over the bar.

West Ham continued to push for the opener, and Bowen forced a routine save from Atubolu down to his right after being found in space on the right by Kudus on the counter-attack.

A knock forced Emerson off the pitch with little over 20 minutes to go, with the Italian being replaced by Aaron Cresswell, but it was home substitute Gregoritsch who had the next chance, heading the ball tamely on target.

The Austria forward made no mistake when presented with another opportunity in the 81st minute though, meeting a low ball across goal and tapping home from close range to give the home side the advantage.

A deep Kalvin Phillips free-kick initiated a melee in the box that resulted in an acrobatic Zouma attempt bouncing goalwards, but Freiburg held firm throughout four minutes of added time, and survived a lengthy late VAR check for handball, to secure the half-time lead in the tie.

SC Freiburg: Atubolu, Sildillia (Kübler 82), Ginter, Gulde, Günter ©, Höfler, Dōan (Muslija 82), Eggestein, Höler (Gregoritsch 70), Grifo (Weißhaupt 70), Sallai (Röhl 88)
Subs: Müller (GK), Uphoff (GK), Szalai, Keitel, Adamu, Philipp, Makengo, 

Goal: Gregoritsch 81

Booked: Sildillia, Sallai

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Zouma ©, Mavropanos, Emerson (Cresswell 68), Álvarez, Souček, Ward-Prowse (Phillips 81), Paquetá (Antonio 90+1), Kudus, Bowen
Subs: Areola (GK), Anang (GK), Johnson, Ogbonna, Casey, Earthy, Orford, Ings, Mubama

Booked: Paquetá

Referee: Alejandro Hernández (ESP)