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Michail Antonio faces UEFA ban after brutal attack on referee following West Ham exit

In Europe
April 19, 2024
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West Ham ace Michail Antonio is staring down the barrel of a UEFA suspension after lashing out at the match officials following their Europa League departure. The Hammers’ European journey came to an end, but not without controversy, as a fortuitous deflection dashed their hopes against Bayer Leverkusen, despite a valiant effort.

Antonio’s early goal nearly secured West Ham the honour of being the first team to defeat the Bundesliga champions this season, until Jeremie Frimpong’s late strike took a lucky bounce off Aaron Cresswell and past goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Despite the disappointment, the team was applauded off the pitch, yet Antonio spared no criticism for referee Jose Maria Sanchez’s contentious officiating in his post-match comments, which could now land him in hot water. He fumed: “I felt like I didn’t get a decision all game. I felt a bit frustrated. We felt like we deserved more. Sometimes the decisions don’t go your way. We move on, build on that and try to get into the Europa League next year.

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

“We’re very proud of ourselves – three back-to-back years in European quarter-finals is unbelievable, I would never have thought that. We were a yo-yo team – into Europe, then fighting for relegation.”

Sanchez left the game with 11 bookings and a coach from each side dismissed, making Moyes seethe: “If that’s the way it is in Spain, you wouldn’t want to watch too much Spanish football. There were excellent performances from my lads tonight and they really did give it their all. We had thought Leverkusen might be weary after celebrating the league title just four days before, which seemed right for the first 45 minutes.”

The Bundesliga outfit were shaken when Antonio nodded in Jarrod Bowen ‘s cross and seemed lost at Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, akin to a stag do stumbling out at closing time. But an honest evaluation of West Ham’s third European season in 37 games reveals they missed the mark over two legs.

Moyes’ West Ham tenure has seen some historic European nights, yet only twice in their history – versus Den Haag (1976) and Castilla (1980) – have they fought back from a two-goal deficit to win after the initial leg. He had previously accused Leverkusen’s coaching staff of “disgraceful” behaviour over Lucas Paqueta’s booking – which led to his suspension for the return leg – following the Irons’ late shocking breakdown in last week’s BayArena match, and clearly there was still bad blood this time around.

Billy McKinlay, David Moyes’ right-hand man, was caught up in a heated exchange with the opposition’s bench, resulting in both him and Sebastian Parrilla from Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen team being sent off. Amidst the chaos, with referee Sanchez distracted by the bench brawl, tensions spilled onto the pitch.

Antonio found himself in the book for his involvement in the fracas, but after halftime, Leverkusen began to assert their dominance, and West Ham’s efforts became less frequent. Alonso, who is in pursuit of a Treble this season, conceded: “I wasn’t nervous in the first half but I was worried – we weren’t feeling comfortable on the pitch. But over the two legs we deserved to go through.”

Jarrod Bowen nearly scored from a tight angle, yet despite West Ham’s exhaustive efforts, Frimpong’s levelling goal seemed both lucky and earned. Now, Moyes faces the challenge of securing European football next season solely through a top-seven finish in the Premier League, a task that seems daunting as his squad appears too spent to ignite a resurgence.

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