Eintracht Frankfurt is a step away from reaching its first European competition final in more than 40 years after beating West Ham 2-1 in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals on Thursday. (More Football News)
The German team had knocked out Barcelona in the quarterfinals and quickly shocked West Ham when Ansgar Knauff scored 51 seconds after kickoff at the London Stadium.
Both clubs are bidding to reach what would be their biggest match in decades — Frankfurt’s last final came when it won the Europa League predecessor UEFA Cup in 1980, and West Ham’s last game of that stature was the 1976 Cup Winner’s Cup final.
An all-German final in the second-tier European competition is a possibility after Leipzig scored late to defeat Rangers 1-0 at home in the other semifinal match.
Leipzig had beaten Atalanta to reach this stage and is aiming for its first-ever European final. Both second legs are next week with Frankfurt and Rangers hosting.
In the new third-tier Europa Conference League, Cyriel Dessers proved unstoppable again in scoring twice for Feyenoord as the Dutch team beat Marseille 3-2 in the first leg of the semifinals. Dessers tops the scoring table with 10 goals.
In the other semifinal match, Roma manager José Mourinho and his apprentice, Leicester coach Brendan Rodgers, embraced each other at the sideline after their teams finished in a 1-1 draw. Rodgers was appointed to Chelsea’s academy during Mourinho’s first stint with the London club.
The second-leg games are scheduled next Thursday.
Frankfurt had a dream start in London.
The visitors got the ball for the first time with West Ham defense letting Rafael Borré in the area to cross for Knauff at the far post to stun the hosts within the opening minute.
It was Knauff’s second goal in the competition this season after netting in the 1-1 draw in the first leg against Barcelona.
Michail Antonio, who returned to the starting lineup after being rested by manager David Moyes in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea, canceled out the early lead. Kurt Zouma headed a cross off Manuel Lanzini’s free kick for diving Antonio to equalize 20 minutes after the opening goal.
Frankfurt was ahead again early in the second half after West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola parried Djibril Sow’s shot and Daichi Kamada scored the winner on a rebound.
Leipzig had to wait till the 85th minute to break the deadlock.
With its three-man attack failing to hit the target, it was its Spanish defender Angeliño who volleyed home off a corner kick for Leipzig.
Rangers are trying to reach their first European final since 2008.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
Lorenzo Pellegrini drove the ball in between the legs of Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel for Roma’s first-half lead.
Substitute Harvey Barnes used his pace to feed Ademola Lookman to make it 1-1 in the second half — officially an own goal by defender Gianluca Mancini.
Leicester striker Jamie Vardy who returned as a substitute after missing six weeks with a knee injury on Saturday in a 0-0 draw against Aston Villa, made the starting lineup on Thursday but was substituted on the hour.
In Rotterdam, Dessers capitalized on a defensive mistake by Duje Ćaleta-Car to score the winning goal in the opening minute of the second half.
Feyenoord jumped to a 2-0 lead on first-half goals by Dessers and Luis Sinisterra in the span of just two minutes. Dessers opened the scoring with a low strike in the 18th before Sinisterra doubled the advantage with a deflected shot.
Marseille’s Bamba Dieng cut the deficit in half with a goal in the 28th and it was all square five minutes before halftime after goalkeeper Ofir Marciano failed to push away Matteo Guendouzi’s cross, allowing Marseille’s Brazilian midfielder Gerson to level the score.
Feyenoord and Marseille are both former European Cup champions, with Feyenoord having won Europe’s premier competition in 1970 and Marseille having lifted the Champions League trophy in 1993.