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West Ham fans will remember May 18 for a variety of reasons. The main reason will be the Hammers booking their place in the Europa Conference League finals. The other, more likely to be forgotten, will be their team rushing the bleachers as they were bullied by AZ Alkmaar supporters.
The Londoners arrived with a 2-1 lead and gave a solid defensive display to thwart their Dutch rivals. Against the run of play, Pablo Fornals forced his way past AZ players. He unleashed a strike from the edge of the box and into the bottom left corner. Goalkeeper Mathew Ryan’s defiance was ended and the fate of the fixture was sealed.
Hammers Return to European Final Marred by Clashes
As the English players and fans celebrated on the ground and in the terraces, a confrontation broke out between a group of AZ Alkmaar fans and West Ham players. The incident occurred in an area where friends and family of the players were watching the match. Witnesses reported punches being thrown by the AZ fans, causing distressing scenes.
West Ham fan "Knollsy" protecting the family stand and fending off AZ ultras
— West Ham Central (@WestHam_Central) May 19, 2023
It was a continuation of the events that transpired in the London leg of the semi-final affair. Last week, a confrontation had already taken place and the matters boiled over once the final whistle was blown.
West Ham players’ families were in the affected area and they rushed to the terraces to keep hold of the situation. Michail Antonio and Said Benrahma were the first to rush into the fan area to intervene. Later Declan Rice and Aaron Cresswell were also seen in the middle to break off the nasty fight between both sets of fans.
Moyes Urges Patience to Assess Unfolding Incident
“We’ll need to wait for the dust to settle to see what it is but the biggest problem is that is the area where the players have all their families in,” the West Ham manager shared.
“That is where the problem came, and a lot of players were getting angry because they couldn’t get to see if they were OK.
“We’ll have to wait and ask the officials what really happened. I can only tell you that players were involved because that was the family area.”
It should have been an impeccable night that highlighted West Ham’s continued resilience. Moyes expressed his desire for it to stay this way and not be overshadowed by the unfortunate incident involving the fans.
IRONS! ⚒️ pic.twitter.com/vagEWzGJco
— West Ham United (@WestHam) May 18, 2023
Unacceptable Fan Conduct Met with Universal Rebuke
Despite security personnel urging him to go inside for his own safety, Moyes prioritized ensuring the well-being of his players and making sure they were not involved in the altercation. In addition, the manager revealed his personal worries as his own family and friends were also present in the same section affected by the brawl.
“What I don’t want to do in any way is blight our night. It wasn’t West Ham supporters looking for trouble.
“Was I worried? Yeah, my family were there and I had friends in that section. You’re hoping they would try to get themselves away from it.
“Security wanted to take me inside, but I had to make sure my players weren’t involved.”
AZ Alkmaar manager, Pascal Jansen, also expressed his disappointment and regret regarding the incident that took place in their stadium. He highlighted its resemblance to the unfortunate events that occurred during the previous week’s match.
— 𝐍𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 ⚡️ (@nathankerau) May 18, 2023
Jansen admitted feeling a sense of shame that such an incident occurred within their own stadium. The 50-year-old emphasized the importance of maintaining emotional control and urged all parties involved to exercise restraint.
“What happened last week was very unfortunate and then you get the same feeling as what happened tonight,” Jensen remarked. “I feel a little bit ashamed it happened in our stadium but you have to control your emotions.”
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