KIERAN GILL: Bowen key for West Ham to stage another famous comeback

KIERAN GILL: Trevor Brooking was hero the last time West Ham knocked out Frankfurt in a European semi-final… if West Ham are to stage another famous comeback in Germany, then Jarrod Bowen is likely to be their tormentor

  • West Ham will seek to overturn 2-1 deficit in Europa League semi-final second leg
  • Frankfurt held same advantage in 1976 European Cup Winners Cup semi-final
  • Trevor Brooking scored twice as West Ham won 3-1 and reached the final

The Eintracht Frankfurt analysts in attendance at the London Stadium, doing their homework ahead of Thursday, will have been as surprised as anyone by David Moyes’s line-up.

Stronger than expected, it included Jarrod Bowen in attack, Declan Rice in midfield and Kurt Zouma in defence, starting his second game in four days since returning from an ankle injury.

What those Frankfurt analysts will have noted was how, if West Ham are to produce a famous comeback in Germany, it is Bowen who will be their tormentor.

Jarrod Bowen warmed up for Thursday by scoring his 10th Premier League goal of the season

If they’re going to do a ‘Gulliver’ job on anyone, he’s the one they need to tie down. Otherwise, Bowen is completely capable of turning that Europa League tie on its head.

Frankfurt don’t need a history lesson – they know what happened 46 years ago after beating West Ham 2-1 in the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final first leg. They went on to lose the second leg 3-1 and exited the competition.

Trevor Brooking was West Ham’s hero that night. Bowen has that same chance and he warmed up for Thursday by scoring his 10th Premier League goal of the season here.

It took him to 100 goal involvements in 208 games in England’s top four tiers, scoring 71 and assisting 29.

Bowen is likely to be key if West Ham are to produce a famous comeback in Germany

England manager Gareth Southgate is watching and smart money says he’ll be taken to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as an attacking option. That’s a door that’s been left open by the poor form of Marcus Rashford and others.

This game felt lifeless for long periods; there was lots of sideways passing, safe possession and little creativity. But when Bowen was fed, that’s when it livened up.

His excellent equaliser involved him controlling the ball from Vladimir Coufal with his left foot before blasting it beyond Aaron Ramsdale, a deflection helping it on its way.

He could and should have done better in the second half when breaking behind Arsenal – referee Mike Dean booked him for diving in a bid to get Ramsdale in trouble – but he remained West Ham’s main threat throughout.

Trevor Brooking (R) celebrates beating Frankfurt in 1976 European Cup Winners Cup semi-final

Michail Antonio was on the substitutes’ bench, enjoying a well-earned rest. But when introduced for the final 20 minutes, that’s when Bowen moved from centrally to the right wing.

That’s where he’s at his best, which will have concerned those Frankfurt analysts. How he ghosts into pockets of space to pick up possession. How he will run at the opposition full back, maintaining close control of the ball. How he’s tireless in his pursuits.

Moyes has overseen a super season, though it is now in the balance. Exit the Europa League and that’s West Ham’s chance of Champions League football gone. This Premier League defeat left them seventh and in that undesirable Europa Conference League position.

Really, it’s all on Thursday’s result. If West Ham are to come from behind, it’s Bowen who is bound to be their Brooking.

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