Europa League: Boniface Scores As Leverkusen Beat West Ham

Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface scored after coming off the bench as Bayer Leverkusen defeated West Ham 2-0 at home in their Europa League quarter-final first leg on Thursday night.

Needing stoppage time winners from Patrick Schick to win both legs of their last 16 tie with Qarabag, Leverkusen were dominant but had failed to break through against the dogged visitors. With 14 minutes remaining, coach Xabi Alonso brought on Hofmann and Boniface and the move did the trick, the Nigerian linking with the Germany winger for the opener in the 83rd minute.

Boniface then sealed the result in stoppage time, heading in a Hofmann cross for a 2-0 win. “It’s not luck, it’s for a reason,” Alonso told reporters of his side’s habit of winning late. When it was 0-0 you could try and overreact and lose control while trying to score. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to insist, and we wanted to keep going,” he added.

The victory continues what could be a stunning week for Leverkusen, who are 16 points clear of Bayern Munich in Germany and can win their first Bundesliga title by beating Werder Bremen at home on Sunday. Alonso said: “The anticipation is huge – it couldn’t be bigger.

“We have a chance on Sunday – if we win, we’re champions. We need to step on the gas and it would be something very special to achieve. If Leverkusen finish the job against West Ham, they will advance to a semi-final against either AC Milan or AS Roma, who clashed at San Siro in the first leg of their quarter-final on Thursday.

Roma ran out 1-0 winners on the night away to their Serie A rivals thanks to Gianluca Mancini’s 17th-minute header from a corner. Mancini had also scored the winner in the Rome derby against Lazio last weekend.

Thursday’s other game saw Benfica beat Marseille 2-1 in Lisbon in the first leg of their quarter final. Goals by Rafa Silva and Angel Di Maria either side of the break put the Portuguese side firmly in command, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal midway through the second half gives Marseille hope for the return next week.

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