David Moyes is the only manager to guide an English team to victory away at AZ Alkmaar… now the West Ham boss will try to breach a Dutch fortress again 16 years on from Everton’s famous UEFA Cup win
- AZ Alkmaar have only ever lost once at home to an English team in their history
- That loss in 2007 saw Moyes’ Everton end a 32-game unbeaten European streak
- Now the Scot is aiming to emulate that triumph as he returns with West Ham
The numbers make for ominous reading: AZ Alkmaar are unbeaten across their past 25 home matches in Europe. They have only ever lost once here to an English team and that loss, back in 2007, ended three decades and 32 games without a European defeat in this red and white corner of northern Holland.
Suddenly, West Ham’s 2-1 first-leg lead from this Europa Conference League semi-final looks rather slim.
‘There is very little in it,’ David Moyes admitted on Wednesday night. ‘It’s an incredible record… it really is.’
Fortunately the manager who inflicted Alkmaar’s first home European defeat, the only man to lead an English team to victory here, is back in the away dugout on Thursday night.
It was Moyes’ Everton who won 3-2 at Alkmaar in the UEFA Cup in December 2007.
David Moyes is the only manager to guide an English team to victory away at AZ Alkmaar
Alkmaar are currently unbeaten across their past 25 home matches in European competitions
The AFAS stadium has become a fortress ahead of West Ham’s visit on Thursday night
But it was Moyes’ Everton who inflicted Alkmaar’s last and only home defeat by an English side, when Everton recorded a famous UEFA Cup win in 2007
‘I remember it well,’ Moyes said. But only after his memory was jogged by someone who has followed West Ham’s European travails over the past two seasons.
‘It was my dad who reminded me,’ the Scot added. David Sr was here then and he will be back tonight too.
‘The moment I came through the door it all came back. Louis Van Goal was the manager, and I was a young manager at the time… I have to try to do that again tomorrow night.’
Moyes is greyer these days. Since that win, he has crossed paths with Van Gaal once more – the Dutchman replaced Moyes at Manchester United nearly a decade ago – en route to West Ham and a second successive European semi-final. Last season’s Europa League run ended in hearthbreak at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt.
‘Maybe a bit of lack of experience at that level of the competition took its toll a bit,’ the manager said.
‘Hopefully we will learn from it.’
This time, Moyes’ side can move one step closer to a first major trophy since 1980.
West Ham have only ever reached two European finals. The last came 47 years ago.
West Ham have only ever reached two European finals, with the last coming 47 years ago
Moyes is aware of the size of this semi-final tie, which the Hammers lead 2-1 on aggregate
‘It’s a huge game,’ Moyes said. But the manager insisted: ‘We are not under any pressure because it is a thrill we are in this situation… it would be great for the club if we could do so. We have really difficult opponent. We’re going to have to earn it. There’s no gimmies in football.’
Certainly not here. Even if goals from Michail Antonio and Said Benrahma mean West Ham hold the advantage.
‘If it was the other way around,’ Moyes admitted, ‘We would be saying… we have a great chance.’
With Premier League survival all-but confirmed, West Ham know glory in the Conference League would help rescue a good season – and guarantee more adventures next year.
‘It would be huge if we can make Europe again,’ he said. ‘For our supporters, for the club and for everybody involved it has been an incredible journey… even if there have been a couple of steps backwards (this season), I still think getting to a final would be another big step forward.’
He added: ‘The more experienced you get the closer you get to realising you maybe can’t do it forever. So you have to take every opportunity you get.’
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