HK high for Hammers

West Ham United put up a valiant showing on the second and final day of the HKFC IP Global International Soccer Sevens in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The Hammers had won through in second place from Group C on Saturday, meaning they would progress to the main Cup competition. They met Birmingham City in the quarter-finals and edged a five-goal thriller in extra time thanks to Cristian Montano's winner. That earned the Hammers a last-four meeting with a strong Aston Villa side.

The defending champions fielded three players with first-team experience in Ciaran Clark, Marc Albrightson and Nathan Delfouneso and proved too strong for the young Hammers. A 3-0 win for the Midlands club did not tell the whole story but few were surprised when Villa went on to be 3-2 winners against Rangers in the final.


West Ham reached the semi-finals for the first time with a tremendous team effort against Birmingham. The Hammers started sharply with Ahmed Abdulla and Olly Lee combining to score within the first two minutes. Birmingham responded but were kept at bay by a stoic West Ham defence, including a last-ditch tackle from Jordan Brown.

It was not long before West Ham broke again for Montano to score, meaning a two-goal advantage at the break. There was the chance to go further ahead soon after the restart with Jordan Spence brought down in the area, only for Lee to miss from the spot. Montano then had to leave the field for treatment and the Blues capitalised by scoring twice in three minutes to earn extra time.

With just four-a-side for the additional minutes - Sam Cowler, Spence, Lee and Montano made up the quartet - the Hammers battled back to strike quickly through Montano's golden goal. That meant a glamour tie with Villa, who had beaten the fancied Dutch giants AFC Ajax 3-1 in their quarter-final.

Villa have won the competition three times in the last six years and have four titles to their name overall. West Ham refused to be overawed despite giving away much in experience with Brown going close before Albrighton forced a good save from Cowler. Montano then had a breakaway chance but it was to be Villa who took the lead.

With Albrighton and Delfouneso looking dangerous, Villa made the game safe in the second half and were always on top. Lee had the chance of a late consolation but it was not to be for Alex Dyer's side, who nevertheless can head back to England with heads held high.

It was the Hammers' best-ever showing in the competition organised at Hong Kong Football Club and the experience will help a young squad, where only Spence of those who had made the long trip to the Far East had previously played a first-team game.