I don’t know how I can express in words what I am feeling right now. I’ve been supporting West Ham since 1974. I was 12 when we won the cup in 1975. I was 17 when we won it again five years later. Since then, we comes close on a number of occasions. I was in Cardiff when we ost to Liverpool in 2006. It’s a match I still feel we won, in my own mind.
Tonight, I was full of foreboding. That line in BubblesL “Just like my dreams, they fade and die” was uppermost in my mind. I was gutted I wasn’t there, but a broken hip meant I couldn’t go, and even if I could have gone, I didn’t have a ticket. But boy do I now understand all those who went without a ticket. What a night they must have experienced, wherever they watched the match in Prague.
I was surprised that Emerson got the nod over Cresswell, and I was slightly surprised that Benrahma got the nod over Fornals. But on such decisions, matches can rest. If Fornals had started Benrahma wouldn’t have taken the penalty, and who knows what might then have occurred,
We all knew Fiorentina would dominate possession, and that’d what happened. They had 69% possession in the first half and only a couple of per cent less in the second half. But in the first half they didn’t have a single shot on target for all their possession. The disallowed goal in the 45th minute proved, though, that the second half would be equally challenging.
Defensively, we were outstanding. It was in midfield that we encountered problems. We kept losing possession far too easily. Jarrod Bowen barely got a look in down the right and Antonio got nothing from a referee who seemed only too willing to lap up the dirty tricks of some of the Fiorentina players.
And then came the penalty. On first sight it looked as if the decision could go either way but the BT commentary team seemed convinced it was a handball which pushed the ball away from Bowen, and in the end the referee agreed. Benrahma was as cool as a cucumber and slammd the ball into the top right of the net. Pure joy. Well for a few minutes at least.
Fiorentina hit back with a brilliantly taken goal and West Ham looked as if the stuffing had been knocked out of them. We struggled for possession, but we started to look a little more dangerous as full time approached. Then Paqueta slipped a though ball to Jarrod Bowen who was through one on one. Was he offside? I banished such thoughts from my mind as he knocked the ball over the goalkeeper into the net. Ecstasy. There were two minutes to go. Surely even West Ham couldn’t throw this way. Could they? In truth they never looked like doing so. Despite the referee adding nearly 9 minutes on when the board had shown 5.
I can’t remember ever seeing such ecstatic scenes on a final whistle. It’s easy to explain. Clubs like Man City or Liverpool are used to winning things. I almost things clubs like that are immune to it. Of course their fans are pleased, but they have come to expect it. We never have. It doesn’t happen to clubs like ours, so when it does, it’s extra special. You could see it not only on the faces of the fans, but the players too. And the manager. This was a tremendous personal victory for David Moyes and surely no one can seriously believe that he shouldn’t be our manager next season. He’s come back from brink and deserves credit for that.
I’d love to think that this victory might mean we can hang on to Declan Rice for another season, but that really is entering fantasy land. I was willing him to announce would stay in his post match interview. I still think he is genuinely torn, but it’s almost inevitable that he will be off. But if he is, it must be for a sum no less than £100 million.
What a shame this match was held in a stadium with a capacity of less than 20,000. A terrible decision by UEFA. Hopefully, they will learn from that.
This is a night every West Ham fan will remember for the rest of our lives. I know I will. I refuse to believe that we won’t experience it again. When we moved to the Olympic Stadium in 2016, there was much talk of West Ham getting to the next level. Surely, this victory shows we have now achieved that.We’re in the Europa League again next season. Apart from the big 4, which other teams can say they have been in Europe for three successive years. Tottenham certainly can’t. Chelsea neither.
It's a good time to be a Hammer. Let’s revel in it and be proud of our team, our club and our fans.
Come on You Irons!