West Ham United’s Academy finished their FIFA Youth Cup Blue Stars tournament campaign in sixth place on Thursday after a tough fifth-sixth play-off against Espanyol saw them defeated 2-0.
Having beaten hosts FC Blue Stars 3-0 before going down by the same scoreline on Wednesday to Dynamo Zagreb, the Hammers put themselves in a good position to finish high up in their Group B on Thursday.
First, they took on FC Zurich – playing in their own city – and put in a stellar performance to win 1-0.
The Hammers began the game on the front foot, and had their first meaningful attempt on goal when Joe Powell curled a free-kick over the bar after Vashon Neufville’s speedy run towards goal was ended with a foul.
Some good play soon after from Nathan Holland and Sead Haksabanovic gave Domingos Quina the chance to shoot, but his effort was blocked.
West Ham continued to threaten in the first half, but Holland could only head narrowly over before Haksabanovic forced the keeper into a good save, meaning the sides went in at the break goalless.
Holland continued to be a threat for West Ham, but the midfield trio of Conor Coventy, Lewis and Quina made sure it was three points for those in Claret and Blue.
And so it was into the final Group B match against SC Braga with the Hammers looking to finish in the top two.
And the early signs looked positive against the Portuguese outfit. Quina dictated the play, and Holland struck narrowly past the point early on.
But Braga took the lead against the run of play on the stroke of half-time when the Hammers failed to defend a corner, leading to a close-range tap-in to make it 1-0.
Early in the second half, Neufville had a penalty appeal turned down and Quina came close with a free-kick, before sub Korrey Henry forced a low save.
And in the closing minutes, Rosaire Longelo played Holland in down the left but his low effort flashed inches wide and the side could not quite find an equaliser as the game finished 1-0.
A third-place finish in the five-man group meant West Ham were to contest a fifth-sixth play-off against Spanish outfit Espanyol.
Early chances again came and went, as Holland had a low shot saved and Henry’s long-range strike was batted away.
Espanyol took the lead after a cross from right was controlled in the box by a forward, who found the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
In the second half, Haksabanovic injected some energy into the attack and Henry was a handful, but as West Ham pushed for an equaliser, Espanyol broke and the striker slotted past keeper Rihards Matrevics after finding himself one-on-one.
And so the Hammers finished in sixth place overall, with their earlier opponents Dynamo Zagreb defeating Young Boys 2-0 in the final to take home the trophy.