Bowen scores in final minute for West Ham to beat Fiorentina, win Europa Conference League
PRAGUE (AP) — West Ham ended a 58-year wait for a European trophy after Jarrod Bowen scored in the 90th minute to secure a 2-1 win over Fiorentina on Wednesday in the Europa Conference League final.
Bowen ran onto a through ball by Lucas Paqueta before beating goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano with a left-foot shot to complete a quick attack at Eden Arena.
Fiorentina couldn't answer despite nearly eight minutes of injury time being played, setting off wild celebrations among the West Ham players as they danced in front of their fans after winning the London club's second ever European title and first since the old European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965.
“It’s what you always say, you want to score in the last minute a winner. And to do it in front of these fans, I thought I was going to cry,” Bowen told British broadcaster BT Sport. “We’ve had a dream. We haven’t had the best season, myself included. But to do what we’ve done tonight for these fans …. to give them this moment, I’m over the moon.”
West Ham only finished 14th in the Premier League but went unbeaten through its European campaign, coming through qualifying before winning 12 out of 13 games in the tournament. The win also means it earns a berth in the Europa League next season.
“I’ve had a long career in football and you don’t get many moments like," said West Ham coach David Moyes, whose job was under threat earlier in the season as the team was struggling near the relegation zone in the league.
It is Moyes' first major trophy after a 25-year managerial career that has spanned more than 1,000 games and also included stints at Everton and Manchester United. Moyes became the first Scottish coach to win a UEFA competition since 2008 when Alex Ferguson claimed his second Champions League title with Man United.
Saïd Benrahma had given West Ham the lead from the penalty spot in the 62nd, sending goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano the wrong way in the 62nd minute.
The penalty was awarded after a video review confirmed that Fiorentina captain Cristiano Biraghi handled the ball in the area after Bowen controlled the ball on his chest.
Fiorentina equalized five minutes later through Giacomo Bonaventura’s strike from inside the area. Bonaventura collected a header from Nicolás González and beat the goalkeeper with a right foot-shot that squeezed between two West Ham players.
Biraghi was hit on the back of the head by objects thrown from the stands by West Ham during the first half, leaving him bleeding from a gash in his scalp.
The game was briefly held up after Biraghi was struck by empty beer cups and other objects as he was about to take a corner. He needed to have his head bandaged to stop the bleeding, while a stadium announcer urged supporters to stop throwing objects.
Some West Ham players also went over to urge their fans to stop, before play resumed.
Rolando Mandragora had a chance to give Fiorentina the lead just minutes after the team's equalizer, but shot just wide from inside the area.
West Ham midfielder Tomáš Souček had a header saved 10 minutes from time.
Fiorentina dominated possession in the first half and nearly took the lead just before the break when Christian Kouamé’s header bounced off the post. Luka Jović headed home the rebound but the goal was disallowed for offside.
Declan Rice, the 24-year-old West Ham captain who was probably playing his last game for the club, became the second West Ham captain after England great Bobby Moore to lift a European trophy.
“When Jarrod ran through on goal I said to myself, ‘this is your time’," said Rice, who is widely expected to leave the club in the offseason. "And then you see the ball hit the back of the net. I’m still in shock now. Honestly, it’s incredible.”
Fiorentina has been waiting even longer than West Ham for a European title, having also won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961. It became the first club to reach the final in four major continental competitions and looked like it had done enough to force extra time before letting Bowen beat the offside trap to come clear through on goal.
"Tonight, I honestly didn’t imagine it could finish like this," Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano said. "We played well, had chances, immediately equalized after a penalty that could have finished us. We reacted, we had a great chance with Mandragora. Then with a ball contested in the middle, we did not make the right movement in defense, and it was all over. The lads were destroyed.”
Bowen became the first English player to score the winning goal in a European final since Alan Smith netted for Arsenal in the Cup Winners' Cup final in 1994.
“You make that run 10 times and you might get (the ball) once. But as soon you get it you’ve got to put it away,” Bowen said. “I had a lot of time but I was confident and then I see it go in, and I didn’t know what to do. ... This is the biggest game of my career, and obviously the emotion, I thought it was going to go to extra time, and then there was time for one more chance. And I’m just so happy that we’ve won it for everyone.”
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