Zouma: “The fans helped and we put in a shift”


Kurt Zouma celebrates Michail Antonio's winner against AZ

Surprise Hammers selection Kurt Zouma for last night’s game against AZ Alkmaar, hailed the Hammers after they came from behind to win the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final first leg.

David Moyes explained in his post match presser that Zouma made the team when Angelo Ogbonna was struck down by the illness which has been affecting the squad.

And the central defender was at his calm and composed best over the 90 minutes and is now  ready to take his place against Brentford on Sunday.

The Hammers found themselves 1-0 down four minutes before the interval when, expecting a foul to be given for an apparent push on Paquetá, they were swiftly pushed onto the back foot by an AZ break.

But the hosts came on strongly in the contest’s final quarter, with Saïd Benrahma’s penalty and Michail Antonio’s close range finish ensuring the they would lead 2-1 at the halfway stage of the tie.

Now they have to finish the job, and Zouma  told West Ham TV: “It was a tough game – it’s a semi-final and we were playing against a great side.

Obviously it was good to get back into the game. At 1-0 down it’s never easy, but the fans helped us today and we put a shift in, especially in the second half.

I wouldn’t say it was frustrating in the first half. It’s like we were, not scared, but it’s a semi-final.

Obviously you want to test out the other team, see how they play and adapt to it. We had a few chances before half-time, but couldn’t make the most of them. They scored from a long-range shot, but that’s all they had in the first half.

They had more of the ball before half-time, but in the second half we got better with our pressing and our freedom was there.

We managed to score two goals, but hopefully we keep the way we played in the second half and put that into next week.

Tactically they were different to what we are used to seeing. It wasn’t the same intensity and obviously we had to change something at half-time.

That’s what we did and you could see we played better in the second half. We had the freedom, Saïd was unbelievable and we need to recover first, keep that from the second half and prepare for next week.

We are very confident when we have a penalty. We know Saïd has the quality to score, you could see the way he took it – the goalkeeper went the right side, but it was too strong.

It’s good to have that, we need him and everybody to be ready. We’ve got another game next week and hopefully we win it.

Michail is so important to us and he is doing a brilliant job. He runs, he presses, he holds the ball. I think the defenders struggle to handle it – we struggle to do so in training as well!

We know how good he is and we need to be around him and help him. Danny came on and brought [his game] as well. We have a good squad and we are lucky to have them.

It’s going to be tough in the second leg. They’re going to be at home, they’re going to be pressing us, but we have to be ready for it and use our experience.

We have to stay calm and use our quality. We were mature in the second half tonight and that’s how we have to play next week.”

Share this article

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!"

Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon


  • robg07 says:

    Zouma must be watching a different Antonio to me, cos the Antonio I see can’t hold the ball up very well at times and goes down too easy. Frustrating at best!

Comments are closed.