The game was deep into eight minutes of added time when Craig Dawson won a towering header, tore into a 50-50 challenge and stretched every sinew in his body to crash through one more Lyon player for good measure. It summed up West Ham’s resilience during a draining second half and, once his anger from him at Felix Zwayer’s officiating has faded, David Moyes will look back at his side’s efforts from him and conclude that their European dream is far from over.
There was no need to be glum given that West Ham could have collapsed after Aaron Cresswell was controversially sent off for fouling Moussa Dembélé just before half-time. The regrets mostly belonged to Lyon. They created little against 10 men and West Ham put their sense of injustice to good use, going ahead through Jarrod Bowen and fighting to hold on after Tanguy Ndombele equalized with 24 minutes left.
“The game is very much to play for,” said Moyes, who refused to be drawn on Zwayer’s dismissal of Cresswell. The West Ham manager was more interested in talking about how his side restricted Lyon. “We defended really well,” Moyes said. “You have to be able to defend as well as attack.”
Ultimately it was another example of the togetherness Moyes has instilled at the London Stadium. It will stand West Ham in good stead when this Europa League quarter-final resumes at Stade de Gerland next week. They are not in the habit of rolling over easily and have shown they can hurt Lyon’s defence.
“We have the ability to score,” said Moyes, who will hope there is more to come from his attack. West Ham were too frantic in possession at times and the worry is that they will live to regret Michail Antonio’s failure to convert a decent chance shortly before Ndombele’s goal.
Lyon were Champions League semi-finalists two years ago and are good enough to punish any profligacy despite lying ninth in Ligue 1. They are an experienced team and were quicker to settle than West Ham, who were in their first European quarter-final since 1981 Ndombele and Thiago Mendes kept the ball away from Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek for long spells and Lyon almost led early on, Dembélé turning Lucas Paquetá’s cross wide.
West Ham’s moments came on the break. They threatened when Dawson released Saïd Benrahma, who was denied by Anthony Lopes, and again when Antonio’s shot was blocked by Castello Lukeba.
The game became cagey. It seemed unlikely that Moyes would be waiting on the touchline to berate the officials at half-time, with West Ham’s manager incandescent after Cresswell’s foul on Dembélé was deemed to have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity.
It was questionable from Zwayer, who had waved away Bowen’s appeals for a free-kick moments before Houssem Aouar sent Dembélé racing beyond Kurt Zouma. Dembélé even winked at his teammates after Cresswell was ordered off. The striker’s touch had taken him away from goal, while Zouma was covering, and it felt ludicrous that there was no intervention from VAR.
The decision stood and Moyes was booked for his protests. He was in a combative mood. Later he criticized a fan who ran on the pitch during the second half, halting a promising West Ham attack and raising the prospect of a Uefa investigation. “I was baffled,” Moyes said. “Those things don’t help the team.”
West Ham served better. Moyes had bolstered his defense at half-time, Benrahma making way for Ben Johnson, but he had a plan of attack. Lyon were vulnerable on the break and they trailed when Malo Gusto failed to halt a Pablo Fornals run. Fornals prodded the ball on and it ran through to Bowen, whose messy shot hit the Lyon defender and bounced over Lopes.
The noise was incredible when the ball went in and West Ham chased a second, Antonio going close. It was a pivotal moment. Peter Bosz freshened up his side, bringing on Tetê and Karl Toko Ekambi, and Lyon’s threat increased. They had more width and the change paid off when Tetê dribbled past Johnson and drilled in a ball that Alphonse Areola and Ryan Fredericks failed to clear, allowing Ndombele to score. West Ham had finally cracked. By full-time, though, they still had hope.