Families of West Ham players attacked after Europa Conference League semis win
ALKMAAR, Netherlands - Family and friends of West Ham United players, celebrating their success in Thursday’s Europa Conference League semi-final in the Netherlands, were attacked by AZ Alkmaar supporters at the final whistle, Dutch media reported.
AZ supporters broke through a fence and attacked the 700-strong West Ham contingent seated in a reserved section at the AZ Stadium.
A brawl ensued in which West Ham players, including captain Declan Rice, attempted to intervene, the Algemeen Dagblad (ad.nl) added.
Police and stewards were quickly on the scene to prevent further confrontation and calm was restored 10 minutes later.
There was a similar incident in London last week when AZ supporters, including the family of coach Pascal Jansen, were accosted by West Ham fans after they celebrated the goal scored by the Dutch club in the first half of the first leg.
West Ham came back to win last Thursday’s match 2-1 and then scored a last-gasp winner in the second leg of the semi-final for a 3-1 aggregate triumph.
Pablo Fornals scored West Ham’s winner in the final moments of Thursday’s tense second leg to set up a clash with Fiorentina in the final in Prague on June 7.
The Hammers last reached a major European final in 1976 when they were beaten by Anderlecht in the Cup-Winners’ Cup.
West Ham have not won a major trophy since Trevor Brooking’s goal beat Arsenal in the 1980 FA Cup final.
They lost the ‘Steven Gerrard’ FA Cup final on penalties after a 3-3 draw against Liverpool in 2006.
“We’re absolutely thrilled. It’s a big achievement for the club, but now it’s about going and winning it. AZ are very good at what they do, but I’m delighted we did it,” West Ham boss David Moyes said.
“We’ve brought in a lot of international players to get better, but we’ve really struggled this season. We had to go back to what gets you wins, and thankfully we did that.”
Last season, West Ham lost 3-1 on aggregate to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League semi-finals.
Moyes’ side have made amends for that painful near-miss by reaching the final of a competition much-maligned in some quarters, but never again in east London.
West Ham have won 13 of their 14 games in the competition this season and will be favourites whoever they play in the final.
“We have created history. It’s the first time in 47 years. It’s pure emotion and happiness to get it done,” Rice said.
Moyes has led West Ham to top-10 finishes in the Premier League in the past two seasons, but they have struggled for much of the current campaign.
They are 15th in the table with two games left, all but mathematically safe from relegation.
Winning a European trophy would be an unexpectedly uplifting end to their troubled season.
The Serie A club are the first team to reach the final of four different major European competitions. They have already appeared in the European Cup, Uefa Cup and Cup-Winners’ Cup finals.
In the other semi-final second leg, Antonin Barak’s last-gasp goal sealed Fiorentina’s dramatic 3-1 win at FC Basel.
But the Viola, languishing in eighth place in Serie A, had not reached a European final since losing the 1990 Uefa Cup showpiece to Juventus.
Their solitary piece of European silverware came in the Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1961.
Now they have a chance to end that drought.
Gonzalez brought Fiorentina level on aggregate in the 35th minute when he was left unmarked to head in Cristiano Biraghi’s corner.
Zeki Amdouni bagged Basel’s equaliser in the 55th minute, drilling past Pietro Terracciano after Andy Pelmard’s free kick picked out the Swiss forward.
Gonzalez forced extra-time with a clinical finish into the far corner after 72 minutes.
With penalties only seconds away, Barak latched onto Luka Jovic’s header and slotted the winner. - REUTERS, AFP