THE NOTEBOOK: Mr Moneyball attends West Ham tie
THE NOTEBOOK: Mr Moneyball is spotted at West Ham’s semi-final clash against AZ Alkmaar, naming rights partner wanted for London Stadium… and lucky Hammers won’t have to pay win bonus
- Billy Beane, the inspiration for film Moneyball, was at the London Stadium
- London Stadium landlords target a naming rights partner for next season
- Ex-West Ham midfielder Noble has been inundated with requests for tickets
West Ham United came surging back with goals from Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio to beat AZ Alkmaar 2-1 after trailing at half-time in the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final 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.
Benrahma equalised with a 67th-minute penalty and Antonio poached the winner nine minutes later after Tijani 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.
Mail Sport’s KEIRAN GILL takes a look at some of things you may have missed.
West Ham came from behind to secure a narrow semi-final first-leg win over AZ Alkmaar
Mr Moneyball is spotted at West Ham tie
Billy Beane was spotted at the London Stadium and if you recognise that name, it’s because Brad Pitt played him in the 2011 film Moneyball.
Beane owns a stake in AZ Alkmaar.
David Moyes mentioned at his pre-match press conference how AZ are an interesting club as they follow the Moneyball mantra, using statistical data to try to out-think the big boys of football.
Billy Beane, the inspiration for film Moneyball, was at the London Stadium on Thursday night
Lucky Hammers won’t have to pay win bonus
West Ham’s original deal with their London Stadium landlords, the LLDC, included a few intriguing bonuses. If they win the Champions League, the club would have to hand them a bonus of £1million. If they win the Europa League, it’s £100,000.
Yet when the agreement was reached, the Europa Conference League was not yet a competition, so Mail Sport understands the LLDC are not due a penny if West Ham triumph. That’s a big blow for the landlords, who did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
The only silver lining for the LLDC is that they would at least be guaranteed £100,000 for West Ham qualifying for the Europa League.
Meanwhile, Mail Sport can also reveal that the LLDC want the London Stadium to have a naming rights partner ahead of next season.
This was AZ’s 17th game in the Conference League this season. To even enter the group stage, they had to navigate through three qualifying rounds.
Goalkeeper is a a familiar face
Premier League fans might have noticed a familiar face in the AZ line-up: goalkeeper Mat Ryan, who spent four years at Brighton between 2017 and 2021.
Now 31, Ryan is on his fourth club since leaving the Seagulls after brief stints at Arsenal (on loan), Real Sociedad and Copenhagen — and he played all four of Australia’s World Cup matches in Qatar last year.
Ex-Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan was in goal for AZ but could not keep out Said Benrahma’s penalty
The London Stadium DJ missed a trick not playing a Spooky & Sue track, given one half of the 1970s English-Dutch pop duo was Sue Chaloner, the mother of AZ manager Pascal Jansen.
AZ won the UEFA Youth League
AZ possess one of the most exciting academies on the continent and they have already achieved success in Europe this season with their Under 19s winning the UEFA Youth League title last month.
Notable was the manner in which they won, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 5-0, Barcelona 3-0 and Real Madrid 4-0 before winning on penalties against Sporting Lisbon to reach the final, where they thrashed Hajduk Split 5-0.
Nothing Noble about UEFA’s ticket farce
Given West Ham’s pitiful ticket allocation should they reach the Conference League final, spare a thought for the battery on Mark Noble’s phone.
With each passing round, he has been inundated by ever more messages to see if he can nab a ticket. That’s going to be amplified if West Ham confirm they’re heading to Prague on June 7.
The finalists have initially been allocated just 4,000 tickets each at the 20,800-capacity Fortuna Arena. UEFA insist they cannot change the venue but would be willing to give more tickets to West Ham if they qualify.
Former West Ham midfielder Mark Noble has been inundated with requests for tickets
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