On Wednesday night, West Ham won their first European championship in 58 years thanks to a dramatic Jarrod Bowen goal in the Europa Conference League championship match against Fiorentina.
Declan Rice became the first captain of the Hammers since the late Bobby Moore in 1965 to raise a continental trophy, the Cup Winners’ Cup, in what might have been his final game for the club. The team made its first participation in a European final since 1976 after making it all the way to last season’s Europa League semifinals.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Fiorentina outpossessed West Ham in terms of possession and had more than twice as many shots on goal. But it didn’t result in a goal until just over an hour had passed before Said Benrahma scored from the penalty spot.
It took little any time for Giacomo Bonaventura to equalize after taking the lead. But when Bowen was let through on goal and maintained his calm to score past the charging Pietro Terracciano, the Hammers stole the victory.
“I obviously dreamed of scoring but to score the winner in the last minute. It’s what you always say you want to do. To do it in front of these fans. I thought I was going to cry. I’m just happy,” Bowen told BT Sport straight after the final whistle.
“We had a dream, we haven’t had the best season, myself included, but to give these fans this moment, I’m over the moon. I think in my position you make that run 10 times you might get that ball once. As soon as you get it you’ve got to put it away.
“Never [have I felt like this in my life]. This is the biggest game of my career. The emotion, there was time for one more chance. I’m just so happy. I’m over the moon.”
West Ham struggled in the Premier League and spent much of the domestic season fighting for survival, but the Europa Conference League was a welcome distraction throughout. They had a perfect 100% record in the group stage and won all but one of their knockout games, a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their quarterfinal match against Gent.
A spot in the group stage of the Europa League for the following season is West Ham’s reward for winning the competition, in addition to the trophy itself.