Europa: Boniface back with a bang as Leverkusen strike late to beat West Ham

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

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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.”

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 told reporters “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.”

“The fans singing gave me goosebumps,” Hofmann told German TV network RTL.

“It means everything to be able to hold up the shield at the end of the season. It will be a moment where maybe a few tears will fall. We might get overwhelmed, but you need to let your emotions flow.”


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