Michail Antonio felt officials were against West Ham after European exit

By Sports Desk April 18, 2024

Michail Antonio felt West Ham were up against 14 players as they bowed out of the Europa League to Bayer Leverkusen.

Antonio’s early header gave the Hammers hope of overturning a 2-0 first-leg deficit and inflicting a first defeat of the season on Xabi Alonso’s new Bundesliga champions.

But the bustling striker claimed he did not get a decision all night from card-happy Spanish referee Jose Maria Sanchez and his two assistants.

“It doesn’t feel like you’re playing against 11 men, it feels like you’re playing against 13 or 14 including the two linos,” Antonio told TNT Sports.

“You just have to keep pushing and try and make the decisions go your way. And they just weren’t. We had to keep playing our way and keep being professional.”

West Ham pushed gamely for a second goal to take the tie to extra-time, but as they inevitably flagged Leverkusen substitute Jeremie Frimpong scored with a deflected shot in the last minute to make it 1-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

It was a valiant effort but ultimately a sad end to another European adventure for last season’s Conference League winners.

“We’re very proud of ourselves, to achieve what we’ve achieved over the last few years is incredible,” added Antonio.

“Three back-to-back years in European quarter-finals I would never have thought that. We were a yo-yo team, fighting relegation, then into Europe.”

Sanchez booked 11 players and sent off West Ham coach Billy McKinlay, and Sebastian Parrilla from Leverkusen’s staff after a touchline altercation.

Asked if that skirmish had anything to do with some bad-tempered exchanges between the benches in last week’s first leg, Alonso said with a grin: “I wouldn’t say no.”

Hammers boss David Moyes was not keen to be drawn on the officiating, but he did say: “I watch a lot of Spanish football but if that’s the way it is you wouldn’t want to watch too many Spanish matches.”

On his side’s performance, he added: “It was a brilliant team performance, I have to say over the two games.

“We played a really good team and we had chances to be two or three up. I couldn’t fault the players at all. If I was going out of Europe I wanted to go out like that.”

In the first half Leverkusen looked as though they may have celebrated their first Bundesliga crown on Sunday a little too much, and Alonso admitted they needed to improve after the break.

“For sure it was a thrilling game,” he said. “Two different halves. First half we knew West Ham would come with high intensity and we were not comfortable with that.

“After they scored one we were lucky not to concede a second one. But we showed character in the second half and the substitutes had a good impact. It was a lesson for us.”

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