Alphonse Areola knows he played a huge role in ‘a perfect night’ in West Ham United history.
The Frenchman’s vital stop from Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half effort at London Stadium, in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg, was declared the Save of the Season at the 2021/22 Player Awards on Monday evening.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Spain, the Hammers simply could not afford to fall further behind against tournament favourites Sevilla in the return tie in Stratford, if they were to keep their UEFA Europa League dreams alive.
By all rights that should have happened when Moroccan striker En-Nesyri smashed a rising shot towards the Hammers’ goal midway through the first half - but it was Areola’s reaction save which denied him in spectacular fashion.
The stop kept the team in the tie and set the foundation for an unforgettable come-from-behind victory, as Tomáš Souček and Andriy Yarmolenko fired West Ham to a 2-1 win on aggregate.
Reflecting on the special night, Areola said: “I wasn’t thinking about my save, you know. I was just thinking about the result and this big moment for the team as well.
“We were under pressure and I made the save, so I was happy to help the team and we won, so it was a perfect night.”
Areola has featured regularly for the Hammers in cup competitions since joining on loan from Paris Saint-Germain last summer. The 29-year-old has played 18 times in all competitions, including eleven outings in the UEFA Europa League.
The shot-stopper admitted he is loving life in east London with the Hammers.
“When you are a football and you play, you’re just enjoying every moment,” he added. “I’ve enjoyed every moment since I arrived here when I signed and when I took the first pictures with my new jersey and my new number, so I enjoyed every moment with everyone here.
“The story is not finished, so hopefully we’ll see!”