Bayer Leverkusen continued its crazy series in the Europa League and took an acclaimed step towards the semi-finals shortly before a possible championship party. Coach Xabi Alonso’s team defeated West Ham United 2-0 (0-0) in the quarter-final first leg on Thursday evening with two late goals from substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface. Leverkusen remained unbeaten in their 42nd competitive game of the season.

In front of 30,210 spectators in the home stadium, Hofmann and Boniface scored for the superior Werkself in the final phase (83rd and 90th minute). The game is supposed to be the overture for big holidays: This weekend, the Rhinelanders can complete the first German football championship in their club history.

In what was possibly the biggest week in the club’s history, Alonso didn’t want to hear anything about the talk about the first German championship. “It’s a great opportunity to advance in this competition,” said the Basque, demanding full concentration on international business. Accordingly, his team, which had changed in seven positions – only the stars Granit Xhaka, Florian Wirtz, Jonathan Tah and Alejandro Grimaldo remained in the starting eleven compared to the game at Union Berlin – also took on the task against the robust English.

As usual, Bayer circled the ball around the Hammers penalty area in the style of a handball team. However, the Premier League club, which had eliminated SC Freiburg in the round of 16, made the spaces extremely narrow, so that Leverkusen found it difficult to create clear scoring chances despite having more than 60 percent of the ball.

In addition, the guests had reliable support in the goal in veteran Lukasz Fabianski. The Pole was there for shots from Amine Adli (10th), Grimaldo (20th) and Patrik Schick (30th) in the first half.

The Hammers even had the best opportunity in the first half. On a counterattack, Mohammed Kudus had a free shot in the penalty area, but his harmless shot was no problem for Matej Kovar. The Conference League winner could have made good use of his injured top scorer Jarrod Bowen (twisted knee) in this scene.

What caused the greatest excitement was a violent attack by Lucas Paqueta against Adli, which immediately led to a scuffle (21st). A foul that the video referee reviewed. The Brazilian was well served with yellow. The card still has consequences, Paqueta is banned from the second leg. Later, his teammate Emerson also saw a yellow card, which means the defender will also be missing for a week.

Bayer didn’t really get going in the second half either. The English repeatedly knew how to disrupt Leverkusen’s attacking game. And then there was Fabianski, who made a great save from Schick’s header (70′). Alonso pulled out all the stops and brought strikers Victor Boniface and Jonas Hofmann into the game, among others. A stroke of luck, as it turned out. First, Boniface’s shot was blocked after a corner, but Hofmann was there in the second attempt. Boniface even increased the score to 2-0 shortly before the end.