For a goalkeeper, there can be few better feelings than seeing your side through in a knock-out competition with a crucial penalty save.
Or, in 19-year-old Joseph Anang’s case, two.
The Hammers’ regular U23 stopper played a memorable part in the Club’s first ever Premier League International Cup quarter-final on Tuesday evening, making some important saves over 120 minutes before the spot kicks, where two further stops saw them emerge victorious.
Dmitri Halajko’s West Ham U23s had raced into a two-goal lead through an early brace from Oladapo Afolayan, but goals either side of half-time from Jahmal Hector-Ingram and Jordan Brown drew Derby level at Pride Park.
Bernardo Rosa put the Irons back in front but Hector-Ingram pounced with just minutes remaining to put the tie on course for an additional 30 minutes, before two yellow cards saw for Alfie Lewis saw the Hammers reduced to ten men for the additional period.
In this game, you’ve got to believe. If you don’t belief in yourselves, there’s no point. We believed in ourselves, stuck together, grinded it out, played an extra 30 minutes one man down, and took it through to penalties
“It was a good game,” Anang recalled afterwards. “We started very well.
“Inside the first ten minutes we went 2-0 up but we just made some mistakes and nearly made it very difficult for ourselves, but the main thing is to just get through to the next round.
“In this game, you’ve got to believe. If you don’t belief in yourselves, there’s no point. We believed in ourselves, stuck together, grinded it out, played an extra 30 minutes one man down, and took it through to penalties.
“It’s all about heart. Playing with 10 men was very difficult because they had the ball and we could only press in that time, so it was a tough test for us, but in the end a very good game.”
A high-quality penalty shoot-out – 11 out of the 16 kicks were converted after extra time – saw Anang produce the first save, diving low to deny Cameron Cresswell in Derby’s third kick.
Just two penalties later, Hector-Ingram had the chance to win it for Derby but found only the crossbar and then, deep into sudden death, it was Anang’s low stop from Tyree Wilson which advanced the Irons to the semi-finals.
“To be fair, I was just gambling,” Anang smiled. “With both my saves, I gambled to my left or right. If I saved it, great, if I don’t, I just go again you know.
“I went to my right twice and got lucky, and made two good saves there.”
Cue wild celebrations at Pride Park as the collective development squad overthrew another top-flight team, having also beat Brighton in November.
It is a feat the Premier League 2 Division 2 side will hope to achieve again in the coming weeks, when they take on Arsenal in the Premier League International Cup semi-finals.
Anang added: “I was very happy because it’s my job to help the team out, and in a penalty shootout it was just my time to shine, and I think I did that.
“We’ve got Arsenal next in the competition, so we’ll just go back to the training ground, keep working hard and look towards our next game. Overall, it was a very good night for all the boys.”
West Ham United U23s return to Premier League 2 Division 2 action against Swansea City at London Stadium on Monday 16 March, with kick-off 7pm. Tickets are free for Season Ticket Holders and Claret Members. For non-members, they are priced at £5 for Adults and £3 for Over-65s/Under-21s. Click here to book.