David Moyes apologised for kicking a ball at a ball boy after he was sent from the touchline in West Ham’s acrimonious Europa League semi-final defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt.
West Ham’s European dream faded and died as the red mist descended with both Aaron Cresswell and Moyes sent off in their 1-0 second-leg loss.
Cresswell’s red card after 19 minutes, for pulling down Eintracht forward Jens Hauge, proved a turning point with the German side grabbing the only goal, and sealing a 3-1 aggregate win, just three minutes later.
The match ended in chaos with Moyes was sent from the touchline with 12 minutes remaining for angrily booting the ball back towards the ball boy who had retrieved it.
He said: “I’m disappointed but extremely proud of the players’ performance, especially with 10 men.
“Many teams would have crumbled and lost by two or three but we kept having a go and tried to create some opportunities.
“I have to apologise for kicking the ball, but the ball boy left it short and it was nicely on the volley for me. But I apologised for it.”
Moyes was critical of the Eintracht coaching staff for their reaction to the initial decision to show Cresswell a yellow card, before a VAR check condemned him to a second red card in three European appearances.
“I thought it wasn’t great officiating tonight, but I think Aaron’s given the referee a decision to make,” added Moyes.
“I was more disappointed with the bench of Eintracht Frankfurt. You don’t react in that way. Maybe that’s what we need to do. We do it by Queensbury rules. And it comes back to haunt you.”
The goal came from Cresswell’s flank on the West Ham left, by then occupied by substitute Ben Johnson who had come on for the unlucky Manuel Lanzini.
The West Ham defence was pulled horribly out of shape as Ansgar Knauff had the time and space to roll a low cross for Rafael Santos Borre to convert unchallenged from eight yards out.
It was a sad end to an uplifting run to the last four of the Europa League, with West Ham beating sides from Croatia, Belgium, Austria, Spain and France to reach a first European semi-final since 1976.
But, trailing 2-1 from the first leg, against the same opposition that West Ham overturned the same deficit against on that famous night 46 years ago, Moyes’ side were unable to emulate Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds et al by going on to reach the final.
Instead a 3-1 aggregate defeat put paid to their chance of a place in the Champions League – the prize for the winners of the trophy – next season, and as a consequence puts the future of captain and prized asset Declan Rice, who continues to snub a new contract, in doubt.
However, when pressed on the England midfielder potentially leaving, Moyes insisted: “No I don’t think so. I think we are a strong team and he has a contract for three years.”
The build-up to the match had been marred by arrests around the city for scuffles between fans, and it ended in near bedlam with thousands of Eintracht fans streaming onto the pitch with flares at the final whistle, before riot police and dogs restored some semblance of order.
Moyes said: “I do feel our supporters have travelled all over and tonight was disappointing. I thought we were the better team over the first 15 mins and the sending off completely altered how the game was going to go.
“But I must congratulate Eintracht Frankfurt. We lost the game when they scored in the first 40 seconds at the London Stadium and we’ve been chasing the game ever since.”
Nevertheless it has been a memorable, exhilarating ride for a club more used to relegation battles in recent years.
The challenge for Moyes now is to pick his tiring team up for the final three Premier League games and make sure they qualify again.
“The players have been great lads for the last couple of years, now we have to dust ourselves down and get on with it,” he said.
“We want more of this. We’ve enjoyed it and we don’t like the feeling of losing.”