With the Champions League QF first legs concluding on Wednesday, the attention was now on the Europa League and Conference League ties on Thursday with games such as Barcelona-Frankfurt and Leipzig-Atalanta expecting to give fans a good show. Alongside these two perhaps even contests was also West Ham hosting Lyon in the Europa League at the London Stadium.
With West Ham still in the hunt for a top-4 finish in the Premier League this season, the onus was on Lyon to progress further in the Europa League this season for their mission to qualify for Europe as they sit 9th in the French Ligue 1 table.
It was the home side that got off to a stronger start as the Hammers saw more of the ball and created a few chances for Michail Antonio while Lyon were sitting back in their half for the majority of the half but did provide the English side with some scares through their quick counter-attacks.
But the turning point of the game arrived during the added time at the end of the first half when West Ham left-back Aaron Cresswell was sent off as he was judged to bring down Moussa Dembele, who was through on goal. The Englishman did try to hold onto the Lyon forward at the edge of the box and this was enough to convince the referee to give him his marching orders.
There was a short VAR check for the challenge as the contact looked very minimal in the replay and Dembele seemed to be late to react to Cresswell trying to hold onto his arm. But unfortunately for the Hammers, the decision stood and they were down to 10-men.
While West Ham fans and manager David Moyes were convinced that Dembele had clearly dived, the Frenchman himself seemed to have given an indication of what happened as he was spotted winking at the bench after the referee produced the red card.
Safe to say, West Ham fans were not happy with Dembele’s taunt –
Although the home side did manage to go ahead on the night through a scrappy Jarrod Bowen goal, the man advantage eventually aided Lyon to equalize as ex-Spurs man Tanguy Ndombele pounced on a loose ball West Ham failed to clear inside the box.
The home fans were booing Dembele for the rest of the night and have also taken to Twitter to criticize him as they believe that it was blatant dive that led to sending off and potentially cost West Ham a win in their home tie.
With the second leg coming up in a week’s time, the Hammers would be looking to avenge the absence of Cresswell by putting out a solid performance in France, where Lyon have struggled this season for form. As for Dembele, the Frenchman can expect a tough treatment from the West Ham players who would have definitely seen the footage of his sly wink.