Rice: Dembele wink and Lyon Twitter inspired West Ham to Europa League semis

By Sports Desk April 14, 2022

Declan Rice has revealed how the antics of Moussa Dembele and a post from Lyon's social media team inspired West Ham to reach the Europa League semi-finals.

Prior to Thursday night's rematch between the sides, footage had circulated of Dembele winking to team-mates after appearing to go down easily to earn Aaron Cresswell a soft first-leg red card.

That decision contributed to the tie being finally poised at 1-1 going into the second leg in France; it also perhaps led to some overconfidence from the hosts.

As much could be seen in a reply from Lyon's official English language account on Twitter to the question of which teams looked best placed to progress this week.

It read: "Are you really asking like there's a chance we don't go through?"

Speaking after a 3-0 win saw the Hammers ease through to the last four, Rice confirmed that both perceived slights had ultimately served as motivation.

He told BT Sport: "There were a few incentives for us to go out there and win.

"Obviously, Dembele winking in the first leg at the camera, and then their Twitter admin saying they don't see how they're not going to get through.

"Those things come back to bite you. We stayed quiet, put in a performance, and now West Ham are in the semis. What more could we want?"

Lyon's belief no doubt stemmed from the knowledge they would have a raucous home crowd cheering them on in the return leg.

However, according to Rice, the atmosphere actually pushed the visitors to play their best game.

England international Rice said: "I feel like if you can't get up for these games then you shouldn't be playing football. The roar from the warm-up was spine-tingling, really. It just really gives you that fire in your stomach to go out and perform.

"[It feels] special, very, very special. We knew it was a tough place to come, we knew they had top individual quality.

"But with what we had on the pitch, our attacking players, and what we saw in the first game in terms of them defensively, we knew we could score goals tonight. For all the fans, it's just such a great night."

Manager David Moyes used his post-match interview to reflect on his team's short journey from relegation battlers to European silverware hopefuls.

Moyes said: "We've got a really good group of lads, I'm really lucky. They've been great in the time we've been here. We were trying to avoid relegation and now we're talking about getting to the semi-final of a European tournament, it's fabulous. I think it's been huge what we've done in two years.

"We've not won any trophies yet, we're trying to compete and qualify for European football again if we can.

"But I think to be getting to the latter stages and beating Sevilla and now Lyon - big clubs, big teams who are used to European football...

"You don't win anything tonight, but it was a big night for us. To come away and win 3-0 in Europe - a really, really good result."

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