Xabi Alonso hails West Ham duo after Bayer Leverkusen’s Europa League win | Football

Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen edged past West Ham (Picture: Getty)

Xabi Alonso singled out two West Ham players for praise after his Bayer Leverkusen side knocked the Hammers out of the Europa League.

The Bundesliga champions won the first leg 2-0 and advanced to the semi-finals with a 3-1 aggregate victory after drawing 1-1 at the London Stadium.

West Ham produced an admirable performance against unbeaten Leverkusen, with Michail Antonio’s 13th-minute header giving David Moyes’ side real hope in the tie.

The Hammers continued to press for an equaliser but Jeremie Frimpong scored late on to settle the tie and maintain Leverkusen’s unbeaten record in all competitions this season.

Alonso admitted his team had to ride some ‘tough’ moments in east London against ‘physical’ West Ham and reserved special praise for Hammers stars Jarrod Bowen and Lucas Paqueta.

‘We were ready and knew they were going to push really hard,’ Alonso told TNT Sports. ‘We were not comfortable in our structure, we were not able to find a flow.

‘We had some soft loose balls and the momentum was with West Ham. To be honest, they were the best team at half-time, we were not at our best. Happily, we changed things at half-time.

Michail Antonio gave the Hammers hope but Bayer held on

Michail Antonio gave the Hammers hope but Bayer held on (Picture: Getty)

‘I am just happy to go through. In the Europa League you always have tough moments.

‘West Ham have good players and energy. Credit to them, they played really hard, totally different to what they did in Leverkusen.

‘You need to deal with difficult moments, it’s not always possible to control the whole 90 minutes. It was key we didn’t concede that second or third goal.

‘We know the physicality of West Ham. They also have amazing players like Jarrod Bowen and Lucas Paqueta.’

Asked about his side preserving their unbeaten record, Alonso added: ‘The records are a consequence of a good job. It’s really nice and we are happy to do that.’

Bayer Leverkusen, who clinched their first ever Bundesliga title last weekend, will face Serie A side Roma for a place in the Europa League final.

Another Italian club – Atalanta – take on Ligue 1 outfit Marseille in the other semi-final tie after knocking out West Ham’s Premier League rivals Liverpool.

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