West Ham United were denied the chance to face Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Europa League after the La Liga giants were dumped out of the competition by Eintracht Frankfurt
Declan Rice knows Eintracht Frankfurt are no mugs after the German side shocked Barcelona to set up a Europa League semi-final with West Ham United.
The 23-year-old labeled the Irons’ upcoming opponents as a “top side” after they stunned the Camp Nou to win 3-2 on Thursday. A brace from Filip Kostic and stunning strike by Rafael Borre gave Frankfurt a historic result on a dramatic night in the competition.
Meanwhile, Rice’s West Ham thumped Lyon 3-0 in their own back yard, reaching the final four of a European competition for the first time since 1976 alongside Rangers and RB Leipzig.
Irons supporters were dreaming of a springtime trip to Barcelona but will now have to settle for a trip to Germany.
Their captain on the night is well aware of the task David Moyes’ men face, though, telling BT Sport post-match: “For them to beat Barca they’re a top side. Whether it was a poor night from Barca, they still had to score three against them. We saw them against Betis and they looked a real strong side.
“We’ll be ready for whatever, two games again, we know what we want and that’s to reach the final and we’ll do anything we can to get there,” Rice, who scored West Ham’s second goal in France, also joked : ” I did German in school but gave it up after two weeks! It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
The midfielder’s goal was sandwiched by strikes from Craig Dawson and Jarrod Bowen, continuing their European dream which has seen them beat Europa League specialists Sevilla and French giants Lyon in the knockouts after storming the group stages. Going into the second leg with the aggregate scores at 1-1, Moyes and co have work to do at the Groupama Stadium.
But when Dawson broke the deadlock after 38 minutes and Rice quickly doubled their lead, the Irons were in dreamland by half-time. Bowen needed only three minutes to wrap the game up, as a helpless Lyon failed to trouble West Ham’s resolute defense and test goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
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“Special, very very special,” Rice added. “We knew it was a tough place to come and they had top individual quality. We knew with our attacking players we could score goals against their defense tonight.
“To get a two goal lead and then Jarrod come out early and put that away in the second half, it’s a special feeling. For all the fans, it’s a great night.”
Moyes echoed the Irons star’s verdict, saying: “I’m immensely proud of the players. The performance, and probably more so the performance in the second half of the first leg when we were down to 10 men which looks like a really poor decision , the players stuck at it, got a goal in front and then conceded.
“I think the togetherness helps, if you have a good team spirit then all managers would like to get it but it comes from winning and good results. We have a really good group of lads, we’ve been really lucky, they’ve been great since I’ve been here.Over the two-year journey we were talking about avoiding relegation and now getting to a semi-final of a European tournament.
“It’s fabulous and we’re looking forward to it. It has been, it’s been huge [progress made at the club] 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 if we get to these latter stages beating Sevilla, Lyon and teams in the group stages, big clubs with big European football history, we go again, you don’t win anything tonight but it was a big moment for us.
“Winning 3-0 away from home in Europe, really, really good result.
“When we qualified last year you could hear the West Ham supporters saying we’re going on a European tour so, they’ve had a pretty good tour this season, Belgium, Croatia, France tonight and Spain, so I’m sure they ‘ll all look forward to Germany as well.”
With both semi-finals taking place Thursday, April 28 and May 5, the final will take place in Seville on Wednesday, May 18.