Declan Rice can leave West Ham on a high note with first Europe title in 58 yearsTheSportsWig Admin
The match was briefly suspended in the first half after West Ham fans threw objects down onto the pitch, one of which caused a nasty cut to Fiorentina captain Cristiano Biraghi, who played on with a bandage around his head.
West Ham opened through a Said Benrahma penalty on 62 minutes — his sixth this season — after Biraghi was judged to have committed a handball when the referee looked on the pitch-side monitor. Fiorentina hit back just five minutes later, however, when the ball fell to Giacomo Bonaventura, who provided a superb finish from inside the box.
But West Ham kept their cool and pushed on. In the 90th minute, they were duly rewarded. Jarrod Bowen was sent through on goal by Lucas Paqueta before slotting home to hand West Ham their first major trophy since the FA Cup in 1980.
1. West Ham write a new chapter with European title
So much of Wednesday night will live long in the memory of West Ham fans, no more than Bowen’s calm finish with just a minute remaining, sparking scenes that were anything but. The victory hands West Ham their first European title since Bobby Moore lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965, writing a new chapter in the club’s history books.
It symbolises the completion of a journey for Moyes’ side, who were beaten and bruised in the Europa League semifinal last year and set out this season to right those wrongs. Now they have succeeded. And, even amid a Premier League campaign that saw West Ham embroiled in a relegation battle, this will go down as one of the club’s greatest-ever seasons.
Part of the reaction from last season was to spend a club-record £51 million on Lucas Paqueta. He came with some serious pedigree — he is one of the first names on Brazil’s team sheet — and was brought in to provide a moment of quality when West Ham needed it most. That decision paid off with just a minute of normal time remaining at the Eden Arena when Paqueta found the perfect pass through to Bowen, all but emptying the West Ham bench who went streaming onto the pitch in celebration.
It was the 29th appearance by an English team in a European final since 1990, but exclude what we now know as the Big Six and it was only the third: Middlesbrough (2006), Fulham (2010), West Ham (2023). This competition was designed to spread football beyond the continent’s elite, and West Ham’s journey this season has proved as much.
The east London club went unbeaten as they travelled to Romania, Denmark, Belgium, Cyprus and the Netherlands. The Europa Conference League was a little sneered at by fans when UEFA introduced the competition in 2021, but now, after its second iteration, there can be no doubt it has earned its place in club football. First it allowed Roma to end their 61-year wait for a European trophy. Now it has allowed West Ham the opportunity to write a new chapter of their own, and one that will live long in the memory.
The Hammers get to do this all over again next season in the Europa League now that they’ve qualified thanks to their win over Fiorentina.
2. Declan Rice (likely) exits on a high note
Declan Rice would have had his eyes focused not just on the Cup, but on legacy and history.
He arrived at West Ham on a youth scholarship at 14 years old, and his career at the club since then has gone about as well as it possibly could: 245 appearances, club captain, three club player of the year awards and regular place for England. The only thing left to achieve was to win a trophy.
Rice has long outgrown West Ham, that much is not in doubt. Rumours of his exit for pastures new have intensified these past months — so much so that even Hammers’ boss David Moyes admitted Rice would likely leave the club. He can now do so with the very best of parting gifts.
The late, great Bobby Moore (also a product of West Ham’s academy) captained the club to the European Cup Winners’ Cup that year, an achievement that still stands as the club’s greatest-ever player and its most beloved. Maybe Rice is beginning to rival him for that honour. In following in his footsteps, he could leave West Ham a legend.
3. Fiorentina’s 22-year wait for trophy continues in second final in two weeks
When Vincenzo Italiano arrived at Fiorentina, he was tasked with providing the club with an identity and instilling some respect. He has done just that.
Italiano — described by one former Fiorentina director as “un piccolo Pep,” or a little Pep Guardiola — has provided Fiorentina with a distinct style, most notable for its high defensive line and high press, and it paid off with two finals in two weeks.
Fiorentina fell in the first of those finals — in a 2-1 defeat against Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia final on May 24. It meant their 22-year wait for a major trophy went on. Italiano talked in the meantime of learning lessons in the art of gamesmanship. Maybe it would drag them over the line. Not this time, though.
On Wednesday, the teams’ clash of styles — Italiano’s high-line pressing against Moyes’ counterattack — for so long seemed to suit Fiorentina, and when Giacomo Bonaventura netted a superb equaliser, Fiorentina fans would have started to dream. It’s the hope that kills you. In the end, it was a West Ham counterattack that proved decisive. Fiorentina’s wait will go on.
Best and worst performers
Best: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham)
He looked lively all game, and his last-minute winner sealed the title and handed him the award for UEFA’s man of the match.
Best: Lucas Paqueta (West Ham)
Proved dangerous all game, and his quality at the end showed on the score line.
Best: Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina)
The heartbeat of this Fiorentina team in possession, there is a reason he was a star at the 2022 World Cup for Morocco.
Worst: Vladimir Coufal (West Ham)
Inconsistent performance, and struggled in attack to help Jarrod Bowen ahead of him.
Worst: Luka Jovic (Fiorentina)
Prodded home from an offside position at the end of the first half, but failed to scare West Ham’s defence outside of that and was substituted for Arthur Cabral at half-time.
Worst: Luca Ranieri (Fiorentina)
Had a good battle with Michail Antonio but should have been booked early on and got away with some poor defending.
Highlights and notable moments
With the match tied up at 1-1 as the match ticked into the 90th minute, Jarrod Bowen became a hero for West Ham on a counterattack, snatching the trophy away from Fiorentina’s grasp with a determined finish.
JARROD BOWEN BREAKS FIORENTINA HEARTS! ⚒️ pic.twitter.com/TL4jbeew9z
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 7, 2023
West Ham held on, and when the final whistle blew it became a party in Prague for Hammers fans in claret and sky blue.
The win was West Ham’s first major trophy since the FA Cup in 1980, and their first European trophy since the 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 7, 2023
After the match: What the managers and players said
Fiorentina manager Vincenzo Italiano on the loss: “If we lose with Lucas Paqueta pinging one into the top corner, OK. But not like that. It really hurts. I am disappointed for the whole of Florence. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
West Ham captain Declan Rice on this being his swan song at the club: “At the moment there’s a lot of speculation going on about my future. There is interest from other clubs but ultimately I still have two years left at West Ham. I love this club and I love playing for this club. My focus is playing for West Ham at the moment. I’m captain of this club and I can’t speak highly enough of this place. Let’s just see what happens. Let’s wait and see. Who knows?”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
West Ham win their first major European title since the 1964-65 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
This is West Ham’s fifth major trophy won and first since winning FA Cup in 1980.
West Ham manager David Moyes wins his first major trophy. He did win the Community Shield with Manchester United in 2013.
Saïd Benrahma has scored all 13 career penalty kicks taken in regulation, and is 6-for-6 from the spot with West Ham this season.
Fiorentina: The Serie A season is over for I Viola and they are on break until next season.
West Ham United: With the Premier League season over, the Hammers’ next fixture is a friendly against Tottenham Hotspur on July 18 in Perth, Australia.