Friday, June 9, 2023

West Ham Captures Europa Conference League Title

West Ham are Europa Conference League champions after a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina on Wednesday. Jarrod Bowen’s 90th minute breakaway goal clinched the hardware after Lucas Paqueta pierced the Fiorentina defense with a seeing eye pass in a singular moment of brilliance for the Hammers.

The high line which characterizes the Fiorentina style proved their downfall in the end. West Ham spent much of the match sitting deep and waited the entirety of regulation time for exactly the type of opportunity Paqueta and Bowen capitalized on. The first West Ham goal was provided on a 62nd minute Said Benrahma penalty kick after a Fiorentina hand ball. The West Ham lead then held up for just five minutes before Fiorentina knotted matters. Both clubs then seemed content to play for extra time and potential penalties until the West Ham winner materialized out of nowhere.

A physical match saw Fiorentina striker Luka Jovic suffer a broken nose and the match had to be stopped for a period after projectiles from the stands drew blood from the head of Fiorentina teammate Cristiano Biraghi. The Italian defender had a rough day as it was his handball which handed West Ham its first goal. Emotions were high in Prague with 22 fans arrested after an attack on West Ham supporters by Fiorentina Ultras the night before. An ugly Premier League season, where the club flirted with relegation, and any ugliness in Prague pale in comparison, however, to the euphoria felt by Hammers supporters who get to celebrate the club’s first major Cup since a 1980 FA Cup title and a first European Cup title since 1965. With their victory on Wednesday, West Ham also automatically qualifies for next season’s Europa League.

No one is perhaps happier than David Moyes who West Ham ownership stood behind as 8 of the other 9 bottom half teams in the Premier League sacked managers this season. Moyes has now qualified the Hammers for a third straight season of European football. Sadly for West Ham fans, West Ham Chairman David Sullivan has confirmed the expected departure of West Ham midfielder Declan Rice this summer. Arsenal and both Manchester clubs have been rumored to be among the clubs interested to acquire the England international. Rice was released by Chelsea as a youngster as just one more future star such as Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah which Chelsea notoriously let get away. The midfielder would then progress though West Ham’s academy and become one of the league’s best midfielders and a foundational player for the national team. While he will be sorely missed by West Ham fans, there is no better exit than one in which your last act involves a raised trophy.

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