Gonçalo Cardoso: U21s must stay switched on the whole game

Gonçalo Cardoso

One of the many advantages of development football is that it affords you the chance to identify areas for improvement.

West Ham United U21s defender Gonçalo Cardoso feels Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat at Peterborough United, albeit disappointing, achieved just that.

After more than matching their League One hosts for much of the first half at Weston Homes Stadium – even going so close as to hit the post – West Ham’s development squad were looking to build on that platform in the second period.

A slow spell after half-time, however, allowed Peterborough to take charge of the tie through a close-range Mo Eisa goal, forcing the visitors to push forwards as the Papa John’s Trophy match ticked towards its conclusion.

In the end, that proved costly for the Academy side, who left spaces at the back and conceded twice more to Serhat Tasmedir and Eisa, exiting the competition at the second-round stage.

Cardoso was therefore disappointed his team allowed Peterborough to control the early part of the half, but believes it could prove a valuable lesson when it comes to playing against senior professional footballers in the future.

He told whufc.com: “We knew that before the game it would a tough game, a men’s game, because they are a good team and doing well in League One. 

“In the end, I think with the result, we need to say that in the second half they were better than us, but maybe 3-0 was a bit too much. I think everyone would agree with that. 

“It’s good for us to learn that when we play against professional players, we need to stay alive the whole match and always stay switched on.

“The first half we had good chances. They had more of the ball, but we stayed compact and I think the better chances went to West Ham. 

“In the second half, though, we were a bit slow in the opening minutes and they took advantage. They finished the game after going 1-0 up, and we need to learn from that.”

The 20-year-old centre-back, who made 15 appearances in Portugal’s Primeira Liga for Boavista prior to joining West Ham United in the summer of 2019, has been a consistent performer in Premier League 2 thus far.

The Papa John’s Trophy offers a different sort of challenge, however, pitting Academy sides against Football League opponents with senior and experienced professionals in their midst.

It’s a reminder how good you need to be to play at the top level of the game. Even in League One they had a really good team and played really well, so even at this level it is difficult

Gonçalo Cardoso

Cardoso therefore reiterated how useful the competition is for testing young players’ development against the kind of opposition they aspire to one day represent.

“I think every one of us wants to play professional football at the highest level possible,” he continued. 

“It’s a reminder how good you need to be to play at the top level of the game. Even in League One they had a really good team and played really well, so even at this level it is difficult. 

“It’s good for us to learn, keep working and understand that there is a long way for us to go to improve.”

Tuesday’s game at Weston Homes Stadium also saw a proud moment for the Portuguese centre-back as he was handed the captain’s armband when Emmanuel Longelo suffered an injury in the second half.

“It was nice,” Cardoso admitted. “I didn’t know that I was the second captain, but it’s always a proud moment for me. 

“It’s a good sign – a sign that the manager trusts me – so I was proud to wear it.”

West Ham’s development squad will now look to build on their last two displays – including a 2-0 win over Manchester United U23s last time out in Premier League 2 – when they travel to Everton and Manchester City prior to the festive break.

Cardoso explained: “Every game, we put the match behind us, analyse what we did well and what we didn’t, then we correct it in the next game and make sure we play better.”

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