U23s off to winning start in Slovakia

U23s off to winning start in Slovakia


A 2-1 win against a tough, experienced MFK Zemplín Michalovce rounded off a great two first days for West Ham United’s Academy side in Slovakia on Tuesday evening.

Two first half goals, courtesy of Anthony Scully and Oladapo Afolayan, made the hosts’ 29th-minute strike redundant as the east Londoners secured an maiden pre-season win.

And the victory could have been by a far greater margin had the Hammers taken more of a handful of chances against their opponents who named players with Champions League experience in their starting XI.

West Ham, little over a week into their pre-season facing a team who begin their league campaign at the weekend, looked sharper from the off and took an early lead on five minutes.

Alfie Lewis did superbly well to get on the ball in midfield and feed Afolayan, who managed to somehow nick the ball away from the defender and charge into the box. His low cross from the left was inch-perfect, and Scully was waiting at the back post to finish coolly.

Three minutes later, the winger – continuing his impressive start – worked some space to cross, and though Bernardo Rosa met beautifully with a volley, his effort was saved.

But the Hammers were on hand to double their advantage just after the ten-minute mark, when Afolayan was again busy around the Michalovce defenders, before his tidy footwork on the byline allowed him to finish into an empty net.

Joe Powell was denied what seemed a certain goal by the keeper on 15 minutes after continuing his run from left-back into the box to meet a cross, and Rosa perhaps should have put the Hammers three in front when he could only chip wide soon after.

U23s off to winning start in Slovakia
The hosts went close for the first time of the evening on 23 minutes when Jozef Turik curled just wide, but they soon cut the deficit, albeit against the run of play. Blaze Hascak – once of FC Petrzalka who enjoyed a Champions League campaign while he was there in 2005 – was the scorer, running onto a ball on the right-hand-side before finishing past trialist goalkeeper Paul Woolston.

The visitors went in search of a third but could not find another breakthrough before the halfway mark. Afolayan was close to getting on the end of Ben Johnson’s cross, and the former’s tap-in from close range after Tunji Akinola’s header was ruled out for offside.

As both sides began to ring the changes in the second half to get further minutes into the legs of their squads, the game became slightly disjointed and neither team created much in the way of goalscoring opportunities.

Train Bednar flashed a header just wide for Michalovce on the hour-mark, but that was as close as either side came to breaking the second half stalemate and the Hammers ran out deserved winners in another positive workout for the youngsters.

Academy assistant manager Liam Manning was pleased with the way his team applied themselves at this early stage of pre-season.

He said: “The performance is of paramount importance at this stage, but I think whether it’s pre-season or not, nobody wants to lose. We’re always about trying to create a winning mentality so it was pleasing for us to get the win tonight.

“At Dagenham last week, we didn’t perform as well as we hoped and although it was game No1 of pre-season, the habits we are trying to get right weren’t quite there. The things we have worked on in the last week have really come out, so we’re pleased.

“Obviously it’s only our second game which I get, but there were too many unforced errors and things that were loose but we could have been four or five up before they got their second goal. So overall, we’re pleased with the game but there are things to work on.”

MFK Zemplín Michalovce: Kira, Rota, Danhlo, Igor, Bednar, Vascak, Turik, Harytyunyan, Kolesar, Kurhinowski, Kavica

Subs not used: Begala, Stak, Salbei, Kolesar, Vojtko, Drab

Goals: Vascak 29

West Ham United: Woolston, Johnson (Barrett 58), Akinola, Alese (Okocha 72), Powell (Ashby 72), Lewis (Nebula 58), Mingi (Trialist 58), Belic (Watson 72), Rosa (Ngakia 72), Afolayan (Longelo 58), Scully

Subs not used: McCornell

Goals: Scully 4, Afolayan 12