The Warm Down: West Ham United advance to the Europa League Quarter Finals on a famous European night
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Andriy Yarmolenko of West Ham United celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 2-0 during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Leg Two match between West Ham United and Sevilla FC at London Stadium on March 17, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

West Ham United picked up one of the biggest victories in their modern history on Thursday night as they defeated Sevilla 2-1 on aggregate at the London Stadium in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16.

David Moyes and his side came into the game knowing that the pressure was on for them to get a result, having come back from the first leg a week prior disappointed with a 1-0 defeat in Spain, courtesy of a goal from Munir El Haddadi.

That certainly wasn't enough to keep the Hammers down though, and they looked up for it right from the start, as Pablo Fornals' volleyed effort was blocked just over 10 minutes into the first 45 minutes of the game.

However, that's not to say the Spanish side didn't have their chances either - one of their best came around halfway through the first half as Youssef En-Nesyri forced an impressive reaction save from second-choice 'keeper Alphonse Areola.

In truth, it wasn't a game filled with end-to-end football, and the chances did feel relatively few and far between at times, but the opener did come after a very slick move from the hosts that ended with Michail Antonio chipping a ball into the six yard box.

That was met by the towering head of Tomas Soucek, and the Czech looped it over Bono in the opposition goal to make the tie level on aggregate heading into the half time interval - the way it would stay for some time.

As for the second half, it was one in which West Ham showed their dominance without really creating too much - the best chance falling to Manuel Lanzini as his long range effort was blocked, but that was the closest they game in normal time. 

Extra time beckoned, and the nerves began to ramp up in East London, but the home side remained calm, and that stoicism was rewarded in abundance when Andriy Yarmolenko tapped home the rebound of Fornals' initial shot.

Cue absolute bedlam in the stands, and after perhaps the longest ten minutes of David Moyes' footballing career, the final whistle came - West Ham had beaten six-time winners Sevilla and were into the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Europa League.

An unforgettable night

It is often said that far too many games are ascribed with the label of being one that 'fans will never forget' or that will 'go down in history', even if in a few weeks time the result may in actual fact be all but forgotten.

This game, however, this win, can absolutely undeniably be described as one of the greatest nights that West Ham United as a football club have ever had, especially when looking at their more recent history.

Everything seemed to come together in a perfect amalgamation which led to a result which will indeed be talked about for years to come, with fans recounting 'where they were' when they beat Sevilla at the London Stadium.

The venue itself is more significant than it may seem at first, for starters: after all, since moving from the Boleyn Ground it's fair to say that complaints about atmosphere surfaced fairly quickly back in 2016.

Watching the game last night, it almost seems to laughable to suggest that there were concerns about a lack of noise being created - right throughout the 90 minutes every single one of the home fans inside that stadium were behind their team.

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It wasn't just the stadium though - it was each and every one of the players, no matter whether they were a guaranteed starter or a regular bench player - they all shared in the same euphoria as the final whistle went.

In the same way as the fans did, there were utterly jubilant scenes on the pitch after the end of 120 minutes, with emotions that can only be produced by the elation that football brings replicated among countless faces.

But the thing that tops this all off for Hammers' supporters is the fact that this may not even be the pinnacle - a quarter final tie against Lyon is still to come - so who knows how this season might still yet end.

Written in the stars

After Andriy Yarmolenko scored against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon in his first game back for the Hammers since being granted compassionate leave, with his country of Ukraine in turmoil, most probably thought that was to be the pinnacle of football fairytales this season.

How wrong they were. It's hard to describe quite how special that moment will be not only for West Ham fans, but for himself and his friends and family who will no doubt have been watching him from various war-ridden places.

It has been said on many occasions over the past few weeks, but when such atrocities occur, it truly does make football appear to be so inconsequential that it barely even feels worth talking about in comparison.

But, and it's a big but, there are those special moments when football and the wider world do interact, for the better, even if it is seemingly insignificant and they bring with them the most wonderful emotions for everyone involved.

The ball struck the back of the net and, while it's impossible to know what the 32-year-old was thinking at the time, the look on his face showed the devastating contrast many others were feeling: overwhelming joy but a realisation of wider context too.

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Of course, nobody is arguing that a goal in and of itself will provide a remedy for the unimaginable suffering so many are being put through in the world right now, but for those who follow football, whether Hammers' fans or not, you'd be hard pressed to find someone without a smile on their face when Yarmolenko scored.

Criticisms have been levelled in the past about football being 'scripted' or 'rigged'; it's an old commentator's adage to state that 'even Hollywood couldn't have written this script' and never has that been more appropriate.

Andriy Yarmolenko has, like so many Ukrainians, been put through practically unbearable emotional anguish in such a short space of time, and it's far from over. But moments like that on Thursday night will surely provide, even if only for a moment, a reason to smile.

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