Why Okumu dazzled despite conceding penalty in West Ham’s Conference League thumping

STARS ABROAD Why Okumu dazzled despite conceding penalty in West Ham’s Conference League thumping

Imran Otieno 08:38 - 21.04.2023

The center back's numbers were impressive despite the heavy 4-1 defeat.

KAA Gent and Joseph Okumu’s fairytale run in the UEFA Europa Conference League came to a grinding halt following a 4-1 (5-2 aggregate) thumping at the hands of West Ham United.

The result means that Okumu and his Belgian outfit failed to punch a ticket to the semi-finals of Europe’s third-tier club competition having gone on an impressive run.

Okumu has been a vital cog in Gent’s backline this season as he has featured in a mind-boggling 42 games already this season, scoring and assisting once through this campaign.

It is this sort of performance that attracted the interest of Arsenal and Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund in the last summer transfer window with more clubs set to jostle for his signature in July.

In the second leg clash against West Ham that was balancing on a knife edge following a 1-1 draw, Okumu conceded a fortuitous penalty as the ball bounced off his thigh before hitting his hand.

After a VAR review, referee Orel Grinfeld pointed to the spot with Brazilian midfielder Lucas Paqueta expertly dispatching his penalty that put West Ham United in the lead in the 56th minute.

The 25-year-old nonetheless had another solid performance for his side registering nine clearances, four blocked shots, two tackles, and most importantly none of the West Ham dribbled past him.

He also had one last-man tackle and won six of the seven ground duels he attempted and was also dominant in the air, winning three out of the four aerial duels he challenged for.

The former Chemelil Sugar defender had 87 touches in the game and had a passing accuracy of 79% but his Achilles heel was losing the ball on 14 occasions.

In the game, Gent posted a dream start going ahead in the 26th minute when Hugo Cuypers tapped in from close range after a miscued shot from Matisse Samoise.

West Ham rallied from behind with Michael Antonio heading in from the near post in the 37th minute before Paqueta put them ahead with the penalty.

Declan Rice put the game beyond Gent after leaving their defenders in knots two minutes later as Antonio completed his brace with a powerful strike that proved too difficult for Davy Roef to contain in the 63rd minute.

Okumu will now focus on the Belgian league where they currently lie fourth and are in the Championship Round playoff brackets.