West Ham secured their first significant European trophy since 1965 with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday. Jarrod Bowen became the hero of the match when he scored a dramatic 90th-minute goal, latching onto a brilliant through ball from Lucas Paqueta and slotting it past Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano. This triumph marks West Ham’s second European title, the first being the Cup Winners’ Cup 58 years ago, featuring English World Cup winners Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst.
Said Benrahma opened the scoring, converting a penalty in the 62nd minute, as VAR spotted Cristiano Biraghi handling the ball while trying to impede Bowen inside the box. However, Fiorentina responded with Giacomo Bonaventura equalising five minutes later with a well-placed right-footed shot that beat West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. Bonaventura took advantage of a superb header back from Nicolas Gonzalez, who leaped over West Ham’s Emerson.
CHAMPIONES, CHAMPIONES, OLE OLE OLE! pic.twitter.com/4mJQRQIwru
— West Ham United (@WestHam) June 7, 2023
West Ham’s victory not only grants them their second European trophy but also secures their qualification for next season’s Europa League. Meanwhile, Fiorentina’s eighth-place finish in Serie A means they will miss out on European competition. The Conference League trophy will bear West Ham’s name as the second-ever champion, following Roma’s triumph in the inaugural edition of the tournament last year.
West Ham’s last major trophy was the FA Cup in 1980. The Europa Conference League final started slowly, with Michail Antonio testing Terracciano with an early low shot. Fiorentina dominated possession and appeared more organised throughout an uneventful first half. However, they came close to scoring in injury time when Christian Kouame struck the post with a header from Gonzalez’s cross. Luka Jovic’s goal on the rebound was disallowed for offside.
Declan Rice’s 13th-minute long-range effort, narrowly missing the post, represented West Ham’s best chance in the first half. Rice’s future with the club remains uncertain, as he is being pursued by Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United. The Europa Conference League final intensified after the goals, with both teams exhibiting increased energy, earning corners, and creating opportunities. Rolando Mandragora and Sofyan Amrabat came close to scoring for Fiorentina, while Tomas Soucek’s header was saved by Terracciano’s diving save.
Fan violence taints final
Unfortunately, what was a thrilling Europa Conference League final was marred by incidents of violence.
West Ham released a statement strongly condemning the actions of a portion of their supporters following an incident where Fiorentina defender Cristiano Biraghi was injured by an object thrown from the crowd during the game.
In the 35th minute, with the game still goalless, Biraghi approached to take a corner in front of the section of the Eden Arena occupied by West Ham fans. At that moment, he was struck by what appeared to be an object, while other projectiles were also thrown at him.
Biraghi had his head bandaged after referee Carlos del Cerro Grande briefly halted the game. A stadium announcement was made, warning fans to stop throwing objects and show respect to the players and officials. Thereafter, the match resumed.
A scuffle also broke out between West Ham fans and riot police in Prague after the match. The altercation occurred when police officers tried to confiscate a lit flare from the fans in the Old Town area of the city. The situation escalated as riot police intervened after fans lit a second flare, leading to the latter throwing bottles and other objects at the officers.