West Ham pulls off poor Conference League final in closing stages
West Ham United have won the second edition of the Conference League. A late goal by Jarrod Bowen was enough for the win over Fiorentina, who were defeated 2-1 in the final in Prague.
It is the third European success for the London club, which, with later England World Cup heroes Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst, won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961 and the Intertoto Cup in 1999.
Except for a shot by West Ham star keeper Declan Rice and a header by Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic, the final at the Eden Aréna, the first official meeting between the two teams, initially had few highlights.
Biraghi gets pelted
Most of the players seemed to be struggling mostly with considerable match tension, which in turn did not stop them from occasionally engaging in duels between themselves with Knollsy-worthy intensity.
The first half was marred not only by the questionable level, but also by the behavior of West Ham supporters. With regularity they threw objects on the pitch and at one point Cristiano Biraghi was hit on the head by a plastic cup.
The Fiorentina captain sustained a bleeding wound and was given a purple turban by the club doctor. After a brief interruption, during which the players simply remained on the field, play resumed.
For a moment, despite everything, Fiorentina looked to go to rest with a lead. Luka Jovic beat West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Aréola with a header from the rebound, but the Serbian striker was offside and his goal was disallowed.
After the game had been a little more entertaining in the first 15 minutes after the break, West Ham was awarded a penalty after an unfortunate handball by Biraghi. Saïd Benrahma did not let that outside chance go unused and put the English team up 1-0.
That setback inspired Fiorentina to a surprisingly strong comeback. The Italians shook off some trepidation and got into their game a little better. It resulted in Giacomo Bonaventura’s quick equalizer, who outsmarted Aréola in the far corner.
Soon after, it was almost another hit for “La Viola,” when a shot by Rolando Mandragora went just wide of the English goal.
Where the final then seemed headed for an extension, Bowen was suddenly sent off in the last minute of official playing time. The English right-winger remained cool and shot West Ham United to victory.