West Ham come from behind to win first leg against AZ

Michail Antonio's goal gave West Ham the advantage for next week's second leg in the Netherlands.

West Ham United came surging back with goals from Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio to beat AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands 2-1 after trailing at half-time in the first leg of their Europa Conference League semifinal on Thursday.

The Premier League side are now in a strong position to reach a first European final since 1976 as they head to the AZ Stadium in Alkmaar for the return next Thursday.

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Benrahma equalised with a 67th-minute penalty and Antonio poached the winner nine minutes later after Tijjani Reijnders had thrashed home a long-range effort to give the Dutch visitors a shock 41st-minute lead.

West Ham produced a dominant second-half performance and might have won by more as they finished much stronger against a tiring Dutch side.

AZ begun brightly and Reijjnders scored with a rasping shot from well outside the penalty area that caught out West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola with a difficult bounce as it skidded across the surface.

The goal was awarded despite home protests that West Ham midfielder Lucas Paqueta had been fouled and lost possession in midfield, allowing AZ to move the ball swiftly upfield and tee up Reijjnders for his shot.

West Ham's second-half pressure put the Dutch in difficulty, although the equaliser came from a mistake by AZ goalkeeper Matt Ryan, whose timing as he came out to for an aerial challenge on Jarrod Bowen was off, and instead of getting a touch to the ball, he punched the West Ham forward in the face.

There was little disputing the award of the penalty and Benrahma made no mistake from the spot.

West Ham forced the win after more uncertainty from Ryan at a corner, as he failed to come off his line and allowed Declan Rice to chip the ball into the danger zone where Nayef Aguerd's header was cleared off the line by Yukinari Sugawara, only for Antonio to poke the rebound into the net.

"We knew AZ were a decent team," Antonio said. "We made it difficult by conceding the first goal. But we'll take the 2-1 to their place and hopefully get the win."

There were further chances for Benrahma, Bowen and substitute Danny Ings in the closing stages as West Ham looked for a larger lead to take to the return leg, knowing that AZ have won all eight home matches in this season's Europa Conference League.