TIRANA, ALBANIA - MAY 25: General View of the UEFA Conference League trophy prior to the UEFA Conference League final match between AS Roma and Feyenoord at Arena Kombetare on May 25, 2022 in Tirana, Albania. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Football | Europa Conference League 2023 | Semi-Finals Second Leg | Roundup
Pablo Fornals’ name will go down in West Ham United history. His goal against AZ Alkmaar secured their place in the final of the Europa Conference League. There were some ugly scenes in the crowd after the full-time whistle but it did not dampen the mood of David Moyes’ team as they celebrated getting to their first European final since 1976.
Fans who had watched the first leg at the London Stadium knew that AZ was a good side and that the tie remained in the balance, despite West Ham’s lead. At the AFAS Stadium, West Ham had to sit back and earn their chances on the counter-attack. Jarrod Bowen shot wide before Lucas Paqueta hit the post in the first half.
After the break, Declan Rice came close with a long-range effort but Matt Ryan was able to push his strike wide. AZ thought they should have had a penalty when Vangelis Pavlidis went down from a Nayef Aguerd challenge. However, the referee waved play on and VAR did not intervene.
The home side was making strides, with Pantelis Chatzidiakos testing Alphonse Areola with a volley. Thilo Kehrer then nearly scored an own goal but Areola managed to clear with his feet. This was a nervy period for West Ham, although, Aguerd had a glorious chance to win it for them but his effort dribbled wide.
There were then handball shouts by AZ as the ball touched Kurt Zouma‘s arm. West Ham are often on the end of harsh calls in the Premier League. However, in this competition, it looked like the Hammers were the ‘big’ team that the referees were favouring.
Fornals then won it for West Ham in the 94th minute. The substitute gathered the ball before running at goal and slotting it into the back of the net. He celebrated in front of the travelling Hammers fans, knowing that he had made history.
After the game, some AZ supporters attacked a section where the West Ham players’ families were. This saw players and staff trying to get to them to help out. However, security and police stepped in to calm the situation. The Hammers were then able to celebrate their victory with their supporters.
Rice revealed what it was like in the West Ham dressing room. The captain told BT Sport “We’ve just been singing ‘One more night!’ We were singing Bowen’s on fire! Jarrod was loving it!”
After coming so close to the final of the Europa League last year, West Ham has gone one step further and made it to the final this season. However, they will face a good Fiorentina side in Prague, so their great work is not done just yet.
West Ham United will play Fiorentina in the final on June 7 at the Fortuna Arena in Prague.
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