Last minute action and …
Waiting for the Champions League final in Istanbul, you can be tempted to reflect on the two finals of European cups already played.
In the first a week ago, the Europa League final in Budapest, Sevilla defeated AS Roma after a 1:1 draw and a penalty shootout 4:1. In the second, this week in Prague, West Ham United won Fiorentina 2:1. Both matches were very similar. In both there was a lot of fighting, although fortunately not brutal tackles. But unfortunately, the players did not create too many goal opportunities, so there were not many reasons to admire the game. Typical final matches, which are played to win them, not play beautifully.
In the first one, Paulo Dybala gave AS Roma a lead before the break. Gianluca Mancini own goal equalized the result. There were no many more situations to increase it. With each minute it was becoming more and more clear that no team can resolve the match in their favor and only try to go to the final whistle. Because there were less and less playing, and more and more fighting and disturbing. And probably even more fraud and pretending to be fouls’ imitations. Certainly it was not the easiest match for the English referee Anthony Taylor.
And in extra time it was a real nightmare. After the first part of it, the all Roma substitutes turned to the sectors occupied by their fans and waving their hands encouraged them to doping the favorite team even more. In the second part of the extra time, many injured or really tired players were lying on the pitch, so the referee extended it for a record 11:25 minute!!! That is exactly 75 percent of the nominal time.
When the penalties shootout came and Roma players did not convert two, it was necessary to repeat the decisive one, which ensured Sevilla victory 4:1. Gonzalo Montiel did not converted it as well, but Taylor, after analyzing VAR ordered to repeat the penalty, because of too quickly exit from the gate of Rui Patricio. This time Montiel made it effectively, and Sevilla won the UEFA Cup in real torment.
A week later in Prague I watched a very similar match with the same result. Said Benrahma gave West Ham a lead from a penalty kick, but Fiorentina quickly equalized thanks to Giacomo Bonaventura. Again a lot of fighting, and again not very clear situations to score goals. And the same nightmare extra time? Not, because the final in Prague was differed from that in Budapest in one action. In the last minute Jarrod Bowen received a wonderful perpendicular pass from Lucas Paquet and rushed with the ball to the goal, sending it to the net near goalkeeper Pietro Terratano. This gave West Ham a dream cup, and Bowen the Man of the Match nomination. I know from experience that if the scorer of the winning goal receives the prize, too much on the pitch does not usually happen. So Bowen seemed obvious to receive it. He boasted that before the final he talked to the members of his family and told them that he dreamed of score the last minute goal giving the cup his lovely club. As you can see, sometimes dreams come true…
Although for me he was not the real hero of the match, but the fans were, in a positive and negative sense. Also during this first match in Budapest. The competition in the stands began there when the players came out to warm up. Roma fans were definitely better in the booing rivals. In choral songs as well. And in firing the flares that landed on the pitch, which UEFA does not like very much, so the penalties will definitely fall.
To this you need to add a spectacular cardboard presentation, to which the fans from Seville responded with the huge banner. In their performance, the stands looked impressive behind one of the goals, when they raised thousands of white and red scarves over their heads and began their songs. Already half an hour before the match the stadium rolled, smuggled, roaring, wavy, boiling… In a word — a real hot atmosphere as at the real final.
However, Prague was even flooded by West Ham United fans. They could be easily recognized on the streets thanks to maroon or blue shirts. And when they stood for a commemorative photo with a cup, in a special position in the square over the Vltava at Náměstí Jan Palach, they crossed their hands on their chest, which was a reference to two crossed hammers in the club coat of arms. I don’t know how many West Ham fans came to Prague, but I suspect that at least a few thousand decided to travel without a match ticket!
The Eden stadium began to live two hours before the match. Fantastic doping did not stop until the last minute. Although the ground in Prague, unfortunately, has a small capacity (only 19,000), it has great acoustics, which was felt all the time.
Unfortunately, the fans from London at the beginning of the match threw plastic cups with drinks into Cristiano Biraghi, when he tried to kick the ball from the corner. Then they repeated it at the next sample so effectively that Fiorentina skipper had to be put on a head dressing. When West Ham scored the winning goal and a few minutes later after the final whistle, no one was able to control the situation. The fans of the London club began to run onto the pitch, there was a terrible confusion, total madness, which was only managed after some time.
Thanks to the eruption of such emotions, this match, the earlier in Budapest as well, will certainly remain in my memory. Just like the Bowen goal, of course. But I have no doubt that for Sevilla and West Ham fans, both matches will remain the most beautiful ones for ever.
Dariusz Kurowski special for Armenian Soccer
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