Samuelsen's emotional tribute to lifelong friend
West Ham United U23s’ third goal against Manchester United prompted a passionate fist pump from Terry Westley and cheers of celebration from the travelling supporters, but for goalscorer Martin Samuelsen the finish meant so much more.
The Norwegian produced a terrific piece of skill on the left-flank before cutting back inside and powering home a rocket, registering the Hammers’ third goal of the match and ensuring all three points went back with West Ham.
It was the moment the 20-year-old’s performance deserved, with Samuelsen putting on arguably his best showing of the campaign so far against the Red Devils.
The winger played down the quality of his own finish, but dedicated the goal to lifelong friends Pedro and Carlos Ballester, with Pedro battling cancer.
“My goal was okay,” Samuelsen told whufc.com. “In terms of technique, it was nothing special, but it means something special for me and some people close to me.
I want to take the opportunity to dedicate this goal to one of my oldest and closest friends. He's fighting cancer. Pedro and Carlos Ballester, that goal was for you.
“I want to take the opportunity to dedicate this goal to one of my oldest and closest friends, who lives in Manchester. I went to school with his brother and he’s fighting cancer.
“I spoke to him before the game and I told him, his brother and his family that I wanted to score for them. I’m really happy I was able to keep that promise. Pedro and Carlos Ballester, that goal was for you my friends.”
Samuelsen’s finish came just a few minutes after Toni Martinez had doubled the Hammers’ advantage, with the Spanish striker also having a role in the opening goal of the game, netted by substitute Grady Diangana on 51 minutes.
In between the first and second goal Manchester United were reduced to ten men, when Luca Ercolani received a red card for a high boot on Diangana.
Samuelsen admits the sending off was a pivotal factor in Monday’s game, adding: “The red card certainly made a difference. They have some good players in their team and they definitely had threats to score.
“Of course, we took the lead, but once they got their man sent off we completely dominated possession. When we didn’t have the ball we immediately had three players closing down, so we made it difficult for them.”
The dominant victory comes after a month without competitive action for the Hammers, who saw matches against Everton and Tottenham in December postponed due to adverse weather conditions.
Prior to that West Ham had been without a win since the end of October, a run that Samuelsen admits was difficult. The winger is delighted that the Irons showed their real ability against Manchester United.
He continued: “It’s been very frustrating, not getting results, but I think in the last month we haven’t deserved to get the wins with the way we’ve been playing. We’ve not been ruthless enough both with and without the ball.
“Against United though we were brave from the start. Everyone wanted to get on the ball and we tried to play out from the back, the way we know how to play. When we play the way we can, like tonight, not many teams can challenge us.”