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Leverkusen fights its way into the semi-finals of the Europa League in London

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Leverkusen fights its way into the semi-finals of the Europa League in London

A 1-1 draw is enough for Xabi Alonso and Granit Xhaka’s team against West Ham to advance to the next round. Thanks to another late goal, Bayer Leverkusen can continue their unbeaten streak. Like last year, AS Roma are waiting in the semi-finals.

Xabi Alonso’s team only found their usual dominant form in the second half.

Dylan Martinez / Reuters

(dpa)/(sda) The last-minute kings of Bayer Leverkusen have again averted a late defeat and moved into the semi-finals of the Europa League with a record. Four days after winning the German football championship for the first time, the Bundesliga dominator achieved a 1-1 (0-1) draw in the quarter-final second leg at West Ham United thanks to joker Jeremy Frimpong on Thursday. With their 44th unbeaten game in a row, coach Xabi Alonso’s team has replaced Juventus as the European record holder. The Italians were undefeated in 43 consecutive games from May 2011 to May 2012. Leverkusen won the first leg 2-0.

Substitute Frimpong scored for Leverkusen in the 89th minute after Michail Antonio (13th) had given West Ham the lead. In seven previous games, Leverkusen had only avoided defeats from the 90th minute onwards.

Coach Xabi Alonso said before the game on RTL that they had enjoyed winning the title a bit, but since Tuesday their full attention has been on the duel in London. “The 2-0 is dangerous, we have to play well with a good mentality, with the way we play,” warned the Spaniard. He expected an aggressive game from the “Hammers” and recalled SC Freiburg’s 5-0 defeat in the Europa League round of 16.

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Kossounou substituted early

At the beginning, the Leverkusen team were careful not to let the hosts get going by making lots of passes in their own ranks. But the plan was already canceled in the 13th minute. A bad pass from the uncertain Odilon Kossounou, who had already been warned in the 5th minute, gave Jarrod Bowen unexpected possession of the ball. His cross from the half field came precisely to the powerful striker Michail Antonio, who headed the ball into the net.

Driven by the majority of the 60,000 spectators in the London Stadium, the hosts then repeatedly put Leverkusen under pressure. In particular, the defense of the new German champions acted carelessly. Josip Stanicsic underestimated a long ball in the 19th minute and gave Mohammed Kudus the next good chance to score, which goalkeeper Matej Kovar thwarted as well as Bowen’s opportunity (25th). Alonso reacted and brought on Edmond Tapsoba for the indisposed Kossounou in the 29th minute.

Then it became turbulent: After a verbal skirmish between the coaching benches with a red card for West Ham’s assistant coach Billy McKinlay and Alonso’s assistant Sebastian Parilla (30th), the players also clashed on the pitch. When the pack was broken up, referee José María Sánchez showed Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah and Antonio yellow.

While the Premier League club dominated the game through effort, there was no sign of Leverkusen’s much-praised offensive art. Only Nathan Tella (11th) tested West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski. Alonso wanted to change that in the second half and brought on Victor Boniface for Patrik Schick and Jeremie Frimpong for Tella.

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With the realignment, Leverkusen gained more security and got a better grip on the game, but without creating any compelling scoring opportunities. At the same time, West Ham had to pay tribute to the high tempo of the first 45 minutes and retreated more and more instead of constantly applying pressure as before. After Frimpong shot over the goal from a free stand in the 83rd minute, the Dutchman scored shortly before the end of regular time.

Rematch of last year’s semi-final

In the semi-finals, Leverkusen – like last year – will face AS Roma, who surprisingly prevailed against AC Milan in the Italian duel. After the Romans had already won the first leg in Milan 1-0, they also won 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico. Gianluca Mancini and Paulo Dybala made things clear right from the start. Neither the red card in the 31st minute against the Roman Zeki Celik nor the substitution of Noah Okafor in the 69th minute was able to give the guests a boost. Matteo Gabbia’s goal shortly before the end came too late.

In the duel between Atalanta Bergamo and Liverpool, the guests from England initially had hope for a turnaround. After losing 3-0 in the first leg, Jürgen Klopp’s team needed a quick goal. Mohamed Salah achieved exactly this after seven minutes from the penalty spot. Despite significantly more play and an increase in chances, the English were unable to score another goal.

Atalanta will face Marseille or Benfica Lisbon in the semi-finals. This encounter went into extra time with the score 1-0 for the French.

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