Under-18s encourage in defeat to Chelsea

Krisztian Hegyi

West Ham United Under-18s went down 4-1 to Chelsea Under-18s on Saturday morning, but put in a second-half display which offered lead coach Kevin Keen encouragement for the future.

The Hammers, who had become the first team to defeat the Blues in U18 Premier League South last season after besting them 2-1 in January, were on the wrong end of an impressive display of first-half finishing from their hosts at Cobham on Saturday morning.

Bryan Fiabema put Chelsea ahead with a volleyed finish after 14 minutes, and with the Blues dominating proceedings, they netted two more either side of the half-an-hour mark: Jude Soonsup-Bell finished off a flowing move, before Harvey Vale found the top corner.

A number of fine saves by West Ham goalkeeper Krisztian Hegyi were required to keep the score down, with the Irons' only half-chances falling to defender Iyiola Adebayo and forward Kamarai Simon-Swyer.

If the first half saw Blues dominance, the second saw West Ham regain their confidence, playing with a new shape, starting brightly, and getting their just rewards on the hour mark.

Christian Veliky picked up the ball and floated a cross towards the back post, where Freddie Potts produced a firm header, looping the ball over the Chelsea goalkeeper and into the back of the net to reduce the deficit to two.

The Hammers were playing the better football but, despite Hegyi’s best efforts, it was Chelsea who ultimately concluded the scoring, Jimi Tauriainen putting the three points beyond all doubt for his side with a tap-in inside the last 15 minutes.

In the second half, the boys really came out and had a go, and it was nice to finish on a performance where I can see us improving upon even more

Kevin Keen

Speaking after the match, Keen reflected on the contrasting nature of the two halves, explaining: “It was a disappointing first half, but at the same time we’re still a young team getting together, playing against a very, very good Chelsea team. 

“I thought in the second half, the boys really came out and had a go, and it was nice to finish on a performance where I can see us improving upon even more.

“It’s a massive learning curve. There were two or three players last week making their first appearances for the U18s, and two or three players this week playing their first games for the U18s.  It’s a tough challenge to play Chelsea away in your first game and you have to give them credit. 

“We weren’t quite at the races, but in the second half we put in some very, very good performances. It was an encouraging second half.”

The U18s next fixture is at home against last season’s U18 Premier League South champions, Fulham, and Keen is anticipating another tough test at Little Heath.

He added: “We mentioned afterwards that we need to start getting the good work we did in the second half in from the very start of matches, and then build on it. 

“Fulham – champions last year, and deservedly so – will be another very tough game, but it’s a very strong U18 Premier League South this year and there won’t be any easy games. 

“The quicker we start producing the performances we did in the second half over the whole 90 minutes, the better it will be for our results.”

West Ham United: Hegyi; Heale (Robinson 45), Forbes, Adebayo, Adu, Potts, Simon-Swyer, Corbett, Kileba, Perkins (Woods 79), Veliky (Mubama 75)
Subs: Josh Roach, Remy Coddington

Goal: Potts 61

Booked: Perkins, Robinson

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