·9 June 2023
·9 June 2023
For the last time for the 2022/23 season, here are the biggest matches and results from the week:
UEFA are to blame for a lot of things, but one decision they deserve praise for is the inception of the Europa Conference League.
Right from the first qualifying round to the final, the tournament has been great fun in both of its seasons as teams have found themselves playing matches at levels they would never even have dreamt of.
So, at the end of it all this season, Fiorentina were one match away from their first continental title since 1961, as they faced a West Ham United side playing their first continental final since 1976.
The Italians had recently tasted defeat in a major final having lost this season’s Coppa Italia, which also meant that this match served as a final ticket to the Europa League for both sides.
The biggest prize was the chance to lift a major trophy, which brought thousands of fans of both clubs to Prague.
Fiorentina looked the better side throughout the first half and even thought they’d taken the lead right at the end of it when Luka Jović turned a rebound in, but he was offside from the initial shot.
About 15 minutes into the second period, it was the Irons who took the lead after being awarded a penalty for a handball which Saïd Benrahma converted.
Giacomo Bonaventura was quick to equalise for Fiorentina, so we looked on course to be heading for extra time. With just seconds left on the clock, Jarrod Bowen was played through on goal by Lucas Paquetá, and he beat the goalkeeper to send the West Ham faithful into raptures.
The speed with which 60-year-old David Moyes ran to celebrate should tell you all about how much this goal meant.
It was a huge result for the manager on a personal level, as he finally won the first major trophy of his career. Of course, it was also a huge deal for the club, as they won their first major trophy since 1980 and celebrated long into the night.
West Ham join Roma as the only two winners of the Europa Conference League – we are likely to see interest in this competition only rise as more clubs with European history play the competition.
Long live the Europa Conference League!
It was a historic week for Hammarby in Sweden, as they participated in their first cup final since 1995, which also happens to be the year they won their last major trophy.
A lot has changed for them since then, and it has not been all positive results-wise. Over the last decade or so, they’ve become a bit of a yo-yo club having bounced up and down the tiers thrice, so their primary goal will be to find some stability in the Damallsvenksan.
They seem to be on course to do that having finished seventh and fifth since their most recent promotion and currently occupying third place after a pretty good start to the season, so fans must have begun to harbour some hopes of watching their team lift some silverware again.
They had a golden chance to do just that in Stockholm in the cup final, where they faced league leaders BK Häcken.
Hammarby lost to Häcken by a solitary goal in their latest league meeting, but they absolutely rose to the occasion here.
On the other side of the half-time break, a Madelen Janogy brace put them two goals to the good before the hour mark, after which Japanese starlet Maika Hamano sealed the result.
Hammarby are just five points behind Häcken in the league, so they will hope to partake in the title race right till the end.
The end of the season brings with it promotion/relegation play-offs in various places, one of which is Switzerland.
This season, there was no direct relegation from the Swiss Super League as it expands from 10 teams to 12, so the top two in the second tier were awarded direct promotion while the third-placed side faced the bottom club from the Super League in the play-off.
After an interesting relegation battle, Sion ended up last in the top flight after sacking four managers and ultimately re-appointing the one they started with.
The story of their management is quite a long one, but what matters in this context is that Stade Laussane-Ouchy would really have fancied their chances to win promotion to the top flight.
They were in a great position coming into their home leg having won by a two-goal margin at the Stade Tourbillon, so all they had to do was hold on to the aggregate lead.
They did more than that, scoring a 4-2 win thanks to a couple of late goals in a match where they never trailed.
With that, Stade Lausanne-Ouchy sealed their first-ever promotion to the Swiss Super League, completing a rapid rise from the fifth tier in the space of a decade.
The promotion play-offs in Spain follow the same format as those in England as the teams placed from third to sixth enter the semi-finals. We know our finalists for this year, who happen to be the third and fourth-placed teams.
Levante did not have much trouble in beating newly-promoted Albacete, but Alavés-Eibar was a very interesting tie between two teams who had been in La Liga very recently.
Eibar would have been very disappointed to be in the play-offs as they had looked on course to seal direct promotion for most of the season, but a terrible run of one win in their last ten league games derailed their campaign.
Gaizka Garitano’s side would have been happy to stop the rot with a 1-1 draw in the first leg, but they would also have been right to feel that their performance merited more.
They went on to regret that in the away leg, where Alavés took the lead in less than 60 seconds. A second goal in the 88th minute sealed the result, leaving Eibar to suffer play-off heartbreak for the second-consecutive season.
One of the tournaments to follow through the summer has to be the Copa Libertadores, where the end of the group stage is near. The biggest headline on the penultimate matchday is the elimination of Group E favourites Corinthians.
Their match against Ecuadorian side Independiente del Valle was a must-not-lose at the very least, but they really needed to win if they wanted to be in control of their fate on the final day.
Their trip to Guayaquil proved very disappointing, as they were outplayed in a 3-0 defeat where they only matched the opposition’s goals tally with their shot count.
This is yet another disappointment for what has been a terrible season so far for the São Paulo-based giants.
They started with a quarter-final elimination against second-tier Ituana in the Campeonato Paulista and then endured even worse times in the nationwide league, where they are currently a point and a place above the relegation zone.
They have certainly not helped themselves with some of their own decisions. Parting ways with Fernando Lázaro in April was understandable, but replacing him with Cuca was shocking.
The 59-year-old was convicted by a Swiss court for ‘engaging in a sexual act with a minor and coercion’ by a Swiss court in the 1980s, but never served his sentence.
Naturally, his appointment was met with great anger by fans and those involved with Corinthians’ women’s team including their head coach, so he left in a week.
The experienced Vanderlei Luxemburgo was Corinthians’ next permanent appointment, but on-pitch performances and results have not improved under him.
It should be worth keeping an eye on them to see how long he will last as they battle relegation and hope to at least secure a spot in the Sudamericano knockouts on the final day of the Libertadores group stage.
The 2022/23 season will draw to a close this weekend, but we still have some things to sort out:
🏆 UEFA Champions League: Manchester City vs Inter (Saturday, 19:00 UTC)It is time for the big one. Inter will look to win their first Champions League title since 2010 and prevent Manchester City from lifting their first ever, as Pep Guardiola’s side also look to complete a treble.
🇹🇷 Türkiye: Fenerbahçe vs İstanbul Başakşehir (Sunday, 17:45 UTC)Fenerbahçe will hope to recover from the disappointment of losing out in the league title race when they play in the cup final this weekend. Their opponents İstanbul Başakşehir will be hoping to win their first-ever cup title.
🇮🇹 Italy: Spezia vs Hellas Verona (Sunday, 18:45 UTC)We have a surprise relegation play-off in Italy because Spezia and Hellas Verona finished level on points in 17th and 18th. The two teams will fight for survival for 90 minutes, and if no winner is found, we will go straight to penalties.
🏆 CAF Champions League: Wydad Casablanca vs Al Ahly (Sunday, 19:00 UTC)We also have a Champions League final in Africa this weekend, which happens to be a repeat of last year’s contest. Defending champions Wydad Casablanca will look to overturn a one-goal deficit in their home leg, where the away goals rule could also prove decisive.
🏆 FIFA U20 World Cup: Uruguay vs Italy (Sunday, 21:00 UTC)Italy have reached the final of the U20 Men’s World Cup for the first time, and they will face an Uruguay side who have also never won this tournament in the past.
Stats and images courtesy FotMob.
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