West Ham prepared to ‘leave everything’ in bid to realise Conference League dreams, says Thilo Kehrer
Thilo Kehrer has promised West Ham will “leave everything on the pitch” in a bid to realise their European dream in Alkmaar next week, after a narrow 2-1 victory in Thursday night’s Europa Conference League semi-final first-leg.
The Hammers are 90 minutes away from a first major European final in 47 years, after second-half goals from Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio saw the Premier League side come from behind to beat AZ Alkmaar at the London Stadium.
The hosts trailed at the break after Tijjani Reijnders’s goal against the run of play was allowed to stand, despite West Ham protests for a foul on Lucas Paqueta in the build-up, but David Moyes’s side regained their composure to battle back and, in the end, ought to have earned a more sizeable advantage to take to the Netherlands.
“[Moyes said] that the decision is made, it shouldn’t have been like that, but we can’t change it anymore,” Kehrer said of the manager’s half-time team talk. “The only thing is to focus on the second half, to focus on what we can do and be a little more calm and composed once we get in front of their goal.
“We’ve got a slight advantage but we know it’s not going to be an easy game, the second leg. We’re prepared to leave everything out on the pitch to make it to the final, that’s our goal.”
The result leaves the tie finely poised, with West Ham’s counter-attacking style seemingly well-suited to the task at hand next week, but Kehrer is well aware of the threat posed by the Dutch side, who overcame a 2-0 first-leg deficit before eventually beating Anderlecht on penalties in their quarter-final.
“I think it has to be a good balance,” the German international said. “We have to push and put the pressure on them, but be controlled as well, and calculated in the things we do. Maybe be a bit more clinical in the final third, in the last pass or the last decision.
“Then, we just have to defend like we did today because I think there weren’t many chances that they had, even though they had some possession.
“All in all, I think we played a good game today, we turned the result around which is very important. Now, mentally we go there ready to get the job done.”
Eight of West Ham’s starting XI were involved in last season’s Europa League semi-final exit against Eintracht Frankfurt, when the Hammers went to Germany trailing after a 2-1 home defeat.
Kehrer was one of seven new faces brought in last summer, but says the spirit in the group and the adversity they have already overcome in all-but assuring Premier League survival are fuelling belief that this is their time.
“We have a team of great players with individual quality but the most important is that we stick together, even through the hard times this season,” he added. “What’s very important is that now getting into the big games, we’re getting out best form and we’ll just keep on riding that train."