Late VAR drama as Okumu’s Gent hold West Ham in Europa Conference League quarter final

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FOOTBALL Late VAR drama as Okumu’s Gent hold West Ham in Europa Conference League quarter final

Festus Chuma 19:46 - 13.04.2023

The aggregate winners of the tie will take on either AZ Alkmaar or Anderlecht in the two-legged semi-finals.

Kenyan defender Joseph Okumu stood tall as Belgian underdogs Gent stood up to English top-flight side West Ham in the UEFA Conference League quarterfinal first leg on Thursday night. 

Gent were the better side after clawing back to grab a 1-1 draw. They have it all to do next week at the London Stadium in the second leg. The first leg could have gone both ways with Gent generally the better side. Two VAR decisions in added time of both halves could have swung the tie West Ham's way though.

 It was the first time in recent years that the two sides have met in the quarter-final and many at Gent felt it was their best chance of overcoming the English Premier League side West Ham.

Gent started quite slow but grew after the 11th minute when Julien de Sart got the first shot in anger after a ball from Sven Kum.

West Ham  threatened too with a shot from Larinzi, but his low cross went directly into the hands of Denvy Roef.

In the 39th minute of the match, Joseph Okumu intercepted Jarrod Bowen's cross with a decent slide, but the Harambee Stars' defender remained on turf, and medics had to come in and applied the magic spray on his hamstrings and was back in action.

Kamil Piatkowski came close to the opener with a looping header from a free-kick, but failed to direct into the net with the ball going over the top.

West Ham had a goal disallowed in the 41st minute after VAR intervention.Gent goalkeeper David Roef spilled the ball which then bounced off Aguerd, then off Roef’s hand before crossing the line.

Gent were left dangling in sixes and sevens when Jarrod Bowen found Danny Ings  who finished easily to break the deadlock as the first stanza ended  1-0. 

In the second half, Gent stepped up and leveled the matters ten minutes in when Hugo Cuypers buried home from the six-yard box off a Alessio Castro-Montes pass to make it 1-1.

Three minutes later Gift Orban created an opening for Gent when his low cross from the left was back-heeled narrowly wide from a couple of yards out by Ogbonna.

Antonio should have found the back of the net in the 69th minute when he met a low cross from the left, but Okumu blocked his shot with the resulting corner coming to nothing.

West Ham had another chance in the 76th minute when  Bowen slipped clean through on goal by Paqueta's inch-perfect through ball but faced with the onrushing Roef to beat, the forward's effort floated just wide of the far post.

In the 84th minute Gent  came even closer to finding the winning goal when a left wing cross from  Tissoudali  was deflected goal wards but Areola  made a fantastic save to touch the effort onto the post.

There was drama deep in stoppage time when Gent's Kamil Piatkowski was shown a red card for a foul on substitute Lucas Paqueta. 

However, after watching the incident again through the pitch side monitor he turned his decision

How they lined up:

Gent XI: Roef, Castro-Montes, Piatkowski, Okumu, Torunarigha, Hong, Kums, de Sart, Fofana, Cuypers, Orban.

Substitutes: Nardi, Odjidja-Ofoe, Hauge, Lagae, Samoise, Nurio Fortuna, Depoitre, Godeau, Tissoudali.

West Ham XI: Areola, Coufal, Ogbonna, Aguerd, Johnson, Lanzini, Downes, Rice, Emerson Palmieri, Bowen, Ings.

Substitutes: Fabianski, Cresswell, Zouma, Fornals, Antonio, Paqueta, Cornet, Benrahma, Kehrer, Soucek, Anang, Mubama.