IN THE fug of early fireworks at Eintracht Frankfurt, West Ham’s ambitions of making it to the Europa League final were snuffed out by VAR.
We proud Hammers people travelled to Germany bubbling with expectation.
Aaron Cresswell was red carded in FrankfurtCredit: PA
David Moyes was also given his marching ordersCredit: Reuters
But that was dented by the 19th-minute dismissal of Aaron Cresswell after the referee was persuaded by TV slow-mo that he should overturn his yellow card for a red.
We then had a real mountain to climb, not helped by a referee who was persuaded to give every decision to the home team.
Within a few minutes, Frankfurt were ahead and for all the heroic effort of our ten men, who fought to the end, they couldn’t get the result they set out for.
It was much less than manager David Moyes, the players and our supporters deserved.
David’s reappointment has been a triumph.
His determined, resourceful leadership has given two of the club’s best years.
And the players responded with marvellous victories against Sevilla and Lyon in our run that ended in Thursday’s frustration.
Declan Rice summed it after the game when he said the players were “gutted”.
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As he said, we have come so far as a group and they have given everything this year in what has been a punishing schedule of games.
The good news is that we know what we are capable of, the players want more European nights and we believe we have a real chance to be a power in the land.
THREE times now Manchester United have appointed what some might call veteran players to address shortcomings in front of goal.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo have been signed chiefly — and expensively — to put the final touch to the play of lads who were just out of baby clothes when this trio hit 30-plus years.
Clubs are paying heavy cheques to the old fellas who have hung on to their speed of thought and reaction if not necessarily their fastest speed.
Does anyone in the Premier League jump higher than Ronaldo, 37, run further than 36-year-old Luka Modric in LaLiga, or convey more threat than Ibrahimovic, 40, in Serie A?
And there are plenty in the queue to beat the threat of wearier legs and slower reactions, continuing their quests for six-figures a week in pay, as well as more wins and honours.
Forwards and midfielders hit the age barrier earlier, defenders chug along for quite a while, goalkeepers go crazy and give up when they feel like it.
These days, the limitations of age have slowed thanks to superior training methods, better diet, improved medical treatment and sensible lifestyle. The peak years have extended and retirement age at top level is usually about 34-35.
I am sure Mark Noble, our West Ham captain who celebrates his 35th birthday on Sunday, felt that and is retiring as a one-club man, even though he remains a fine footballer.
On the other hand, Modric and others, including the remarkable 36-year-old James Milner, will continue to enjoy combat.
Milner has been offered a one-year contract at Liverpool, who are possibly the world’s leading club side at the moment.
His manager Jurgen Klopp, likening him to Modric, says: “He’s set standards (of fitness) in a way not a lot of people can set standards and it educated all of us.”
Whether it’s loss of earnings or love of the game, probably both, Ibrahimovic is the current retirement waiting to happen.
He’s tried it once, briefly, and came back, as big, belligerent and boastful as ever.
In his second stint at AC Milan, however, the Swede isn’t scoring as many as he used to — not surprising for a man with over 500 goals in more than 900 games.
Even for Superman, there comes a time.
Mark Noble will retire at the end of the seasonCredit: Rex