AZ Alkmaar 0-1 West Ham (1-3 agg): Hammers book place in Conference League final

The final whistle sounded and all of a sudden, glory gave way for carnage.

As West Ham players and supporters celebrated a famous win and their passage to a first European final since 1976, hordes of Alkmaar supporters — all in black, hoods up — raced round to a group of visiting supporters packed in behind the away dugout.

It turned very nasty, players including Flynn Downes and Michail Antonio climbed into the crowd as punches were thrown and violence erupted.

Eventually, though, order was restored and now only 90 minutes stand between them and a first major trophy since 1980. Their 2-1 victory in last week’s first leg proved enough.

Cementing that advantage here was never going to be straightforward — Alkmaar were unbeaten in 25 home matches in Europe.

West Ham booked their place in the final of the Conference League with an aggregate win over AZ Alkmaar

Pablo Fornals netted a winner late on for the Hammers, who won the tie 3-1 on aggregate

Pablo Fornals netted a winner late on for the Hammers, who won the tie 3-1 on aggregate

Hammers players celebrated with their fans before chaos erupted with the home supporters

Hammers players celebrated with their fans before chaos erupted with the home supporters

They had only ever lost once here to an English team — to David Moyes’ Everton in 2007. For 94 minutes, West Ham rarely looked like ending that run.

Former goalkeeper Rob Green called the whole occasion ‘wonderfully boring’ and it was, until substitute Pablo Fornals raced clear to secure victory.

There will be nothing dull about the celebrations tonight or the build-up to next month’s final, when thousands of Hammers fans will attempt to paint Prague claret and blue.

All of a sudden, a dreadful season for Moyes could end with Premier League survival and glory in the Europa Conference League. That would do nicely.

The away end here only holds 975 but there had been talk of 5,000 making the trip from east London to Alkmaar via Amsterdam.

In the end, it was less than half that number but West Ham’s foreign legion included former striker Andy Carroll, who led a chorus of chants before kick-off. Perhaps those who stayed at home sensed trouble was inevitable and some Hammers were caught in the crossfire as Alkmaar and Groningen fans clashed earlier on Thursday.

Or perhaps they were saving their pennies for Prague. A brave move, particularly after last year, when West Ham’s adventure to the Europa League semi-finals ended in heartbreak and farce in Frankfurt. Both Aaron Cresswell and Moyes were sent off — the manager rifled the ball at a ballboy — while Declan Rice accused the referee of corruption.

There was, however, one crucial difference this time around: West Ham won the first leg at home. That gave Moyes’ side something to cling to and ensured the pattern of this game was set from kick-off. Alkmaar controlled the ball — just as they did at the London Stadium — and West Ham were happy enough to let them.

Moyes’ side sat deep, watching their hosts play in front of them, waiting for their chance to strike. It worked a treat for much of the first half: though Alkmaar saw two-thirds of the ball, West Ham had the opening two chances. Jarrod Bowen dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box before Lucas Paqueta curled an effort on to the post following brilliant work from Antonio.

At the other end, meanwhile, goalkeeper Alphonse Areola made few friends with his refusal to rush anything at all.

As long as the aggregate score remained 2-1, however, the visitors were dicing with danger. And as half-time approached, Alkmaar began to play with more urgency and the visitors threatened to wobble.

Even then, though, a low shot from Yukinari Sugawara — blocked by Nayef Aguerd — was the first and only time Alkmaar came close to seriously testing Areola.

No wonder that, by the break, the home crowd were beginning to grumble. That was credit to West Ham’s success in sucking much of the energy from this fortress.

Unfortunately, the noise levels rose as soon as these sides re-emerged and Alkmaar found another gear. Sven Mijnans was at the heart of it — the No 10 forced Areola into his first save before his neat feet opened West Ham up again. Said Benrahma made a cheeky attempt to halt their momentum, throwing a second ball on to the pitch and earning a ticking off from the ballboy. Thankfully, Moyes was too far away to retaliate but the game was more stretched now.

Rice let fly with a shot from distance that needed saving, Aguerd’s clumsy challenge on Vangelis Pavlidis inside the area had West Ham hearts in mouths. Neither the referee nor VAR were convinced, though. No penalty.

Not many more scares, either, for West Ham. Pantelis Hatzidiakos tested Areola with another shot from distance before Thilo Kehrer threatened to put the ball into his own net. Aguerd missed from close range late on before Fornals strike settled it.But it doesn’t matter how you get there — they don’t draw diagrams on the trophy. And West Ham are one step away.