The Hammers won a first piece of silverware since 1980’s FA Cup, and a first European trophy since 1965.
Jarrod Bowen’s last-minute winner saw West Ham end their 43-year wait for a trophy with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final.
The Hammers won their first silverware since the FA Cup in 1980 and their first European trophy since 1965 on a historic and emotional night in Prague.
Yes, it can only be the third-tier European competition that Tottenham, among others, in their inaugural form last season saw as an unwanted distraction.
But this is West Ham. West Ham, who normally see relegation as a job risk. West Ham, who sang and danced about leaving their old stadium and the almighty buzz of moving to a new one. West Ham who had to go beg their former manager to save them from the drop, 18 months after they got rid of him when he did.
Just nine weeks ago, the same manager watched the away team unfurl a ‘Moyes Out’ banner during a scrappy 1-0 win over Fulham, which arguably saved his job.
Now David Moyes has gone down in West Ham folklore, joining Ron Greenwood and John Lyall as Hammers managers who have won trophies. A place in next season’s Europa League marks the first time the club have qualified for Europe three times in a row.
And what a way to sign Declan Rice, who is destined to leave this summer but with the legacy of becoming only the third captain, along with Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds, to lift silverware in the club’s 128-year history.
The Hammers gave their fans, 5,000 of whom – officially at least – were visiting, and around 20,000 who just wanted to be in Prague for their first European final in 47 years, the ride of a lifetime.
The campaign, which started in August – three premieres ago – and traveled to Denmark (twice), Belgium, Romania, Cyprus, Belgium and the Netherlands again, finally culminated in a festive night in the Czech capital.
West Ham supporters occupied at least two-thirds of the Eden Arena and could sell out the 20,000-capacity stadium three times, so it was a shame to see hundreds of empty seats at the Fiorentina end.
Their traveling support has been almost entirely good-natured throughout the campaign, so it was also a shame to see West Ham fans throwing missiles at Fiorentina players on the pitch.
It was mainly plastic pints, but just before half-time Fiorentina captain Cristiano Biraghi was left with at least one more ominous object with a nasty cut on the back of his head, forcing referee Carlos Del Cerro Grande to stop play briefly as a message appeared. The PA system begged the fans to stop throwing rockets. A UEFA investigation will surely follow.
On Fiorentina’s next corner, Christian Kouame’s header came back off the post and Luka Jovic powered in the rebound, but to the relief of West Ham – and goalkeeper Alphonse Areola in particular – he was flagged for offside.
The Hammers threatened at times on the counter-attack in a predictably ugly first half, but Michail Antonio’s low shot was saved by Pietro Terracciano and Rice’s effort from Vladimir Coufalo’s half-clear shot deflected wide.
Del Cerro Grande frustrated West Ham with some strange decisions, but even the cranky Spanish referee couldn’t turn down their penalty appeal an hour after checking the pitch monitor.
The ball clearly hit Biraghi’s hand after Bowen controlled it with his chest and Said Benrahma slotted the free-kick high into the net in front of the Hammers faithful.
But Fiorentina equalized just four minutes later when Nicolas Gonzalez won a header and the ball fell to Giacomo Bonaventura to control and fire between Rice and Nayef Aguerde into the far corner.
They took the lead almost immediately, but Rolando Mandragora pushed his shot wide.
However, West Ham recovered and Tomáš Souček was denied twice by Terracciano at the home ground of his former club Slavia Prague.
Then came the big moment. Lucas Paqueta’s ball finally picked up Fiorentina’s high line and there was Bowen to curl past Terracciano.
Cue bedlam on the field, on the sidelines and in the stands. The wait was over and West Ham could finally celebrate some silverware.