Academy triumphant in first Zurich test

Blue Stars


West Ham United’s Academy side were comfortable winners in their first FIFA Youth Cup Blue Stars tournament fixture on Wednesday as they beat the hosts 3-0 in Zurich, Switzerland.

Their second game that same evening, however, ended in defeat by the same scoreline, this time with Dynamo Zagreb as opponents.

The strong Hammers team, full of established U23 players including the likes of Nathan Holland, Sead Haksabanovic and Domingos Quina, all of whom have played in the first team, almost fell behind early on in the first fixture when Rihards Matrevics in goal was forced into a smart stop at his near post.

But the east Londoners – led by managers Steve Potts and Jack Collison – soon began to assert their authority on their Swiss opponents and took control of the game. Their first opportunity came when winger Holland tried his luck from the right-hand-side, only to be denied by the keeper.

Blue Stars
The breakthrough did come soon after, though. Vashon Neufville, bursting down the left, crossed low into the box and Alfie Lewis was able to pounce and put West Ham in front from close range.

As the first half drew to a close, Joe Powell and Quina both had efforts from distance which came close, but the 1-0 scoreline remained at the break.

The visitors continued to assert their authority after the restart and dominated the early proceedings. They doubled their lead when Powell’s deep cross was headed back across goal by Tunji Akinola and smashed home by this season’s U18s skipper Ben Wells, giving the goalkeeper no chance at all.

Soon after, the result was put beyond doubt when Holland terrorised the Blue Stars defence, teeing up Lewis to stroke home his second of the game.

Some good possession to see out the game was needed and West Ham delivered, securing the 3-0 victory to grab three points in their opening group game.

After a short break, the Irons were back in action again in their second group game and took on Dynamo Zagreb.

And the Croatian team took the lead early on when a quick throw-in set up an attack down the left before they converted a low cross.

The Hammers grew into the game after that and began to dominate the first half. Lewis, confident after his opening match brace, continued a bright run into the box but was denied by the keeper.

Soon after, Holland showed his electric pace down the left, cutting back for Haksabanovic, but the Montenegrin could not turn his effort past the keeper.

In the second period, the east Londoners continued to press for an equaliser and Lewis went agonisingly close when he lifted the ball over the goalkeeper but against the crossbar.

As the game went on, Zagreb started to look dangerous on the break and struck twice in quick succession to kill the game. Late attacks from Holland and sub Rosaire Longelo came to nothing and the game ended 3-0.

The Hammers will now prepare for group games against FC Zurich and SC Braga as they look to better their fifth-place finishes of the last two years.

West Ham United (both matches): Matrevics, Johnson, Akinola, Wells, Neufville, Lewis, Coventry, Powell, Quina, Haksabanovic, Holland

Subs: Barrett, Dalipi, R. Longelo, Charles, Henry