- AZ Alkmaar played host to Premier League side West Ham United in the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final second leg
- West Ham won the first leg 2-1 in London and a draw would have seen them through to the finals
- A sole goal from Pablo Fornals secured the win for West Ham who won the aggregate 3-1 to earn a place in the final
West Ham United has achieved a significant milestone by reaching a major European final for the first time since 1976. They secured their place in the UEFA Europa Conference League final by holding onto a narrow aggregate lead against AZ in the second leg of the semi-finals. The club’s previous European final was a loss to Anderlecht in the 1976 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final.
In the first leg at the London Stadium, West Ham struggled in the first half but managed to turn the game around with goals from Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio, cancelling out an early strike from Tijani Reijnders. In the return leg in Alkmaar, David Moyes’ team surrendered most of the possession to AZ and faced more shots on goal, but they arguably had the better scoring opportunities.
As the minutes ticked by and AZ increased the pressure in search of a goal to force extra time, nerves grew among the West Ham fans. However, Pablo Fornals sealed their trip to Prague with a late counter-attack goal. The Spanish midfielder skillfully dribbled past a defender, surged toward the goal, and delivered a precise finish into the bottom corner.
The final is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, June 7, at the Fortuna Arena in Prague. West Ham will face Fiorentina, who secured their place in the final with a dramatic semi-final victory over Basel. After trailing 2-1 from the first leg at home, Fiorentina won 2-1 in the second leg in Switzerland to level the aggregate score. Antonin Barak then scored the decisive goal for the Italian Serie A side in the ninth minute of stoppage time at the end of extra time.
Although West Ham has faced challenges in the Premier League this season compared to their recent successful finishes of sixth and seventh place in 2020/21 and 2021/22, they have enjoyed a strong campaign in European competition. Last season, they reached the semi-finals of the Europa League, narrowly losing to eventual champions Eintracht Frankfurt.
The club qualified for the Europa Conference League group stage with a comfortable victory over Viborg from Denmark in August. They were the only team to achieve a perfect record in the group stage, winning all six games against Anderlecht, Silkeborg, and FCSB. They continued their impressive run with convincing victories against AEK Larnaca from Cyprus and Belgian side Gent in the knockout stages before facing AZ in the semi-finals and securing the two-legged victory.