Dmitri Halajko: U23s are pleased with the qualities we showed against Chelsea


Dmitri Halajko

Dmitri Halajko was pleased with the characteristics display by West Ham United U23s in their 2-1 win over Chelsea U23s on Sunday afternoon.

Keen to make up for a disappointing defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion last time out, the young Irons made a rapid start at Rush Green Stadium courtesy of Will Greenidge’s first-ever goal at PDP (U18s and U23s) level.

The centre-back’s sweeping finish from a spilt corner kick was typical of the nature of his side’s performance in the first half-an-hour: half-a-yard quicker to the ball than their opponents.

Chelsea equalised before half-time through Brian Fiabema’s crisp low strike, however, before an injury to West Ham captain Aji Alese in the early stages of the second half led to a significant stoppage in play.

With 16 minutes added on, the Hammers needed only eight of them to find a winning goal, Harrison Ashby exchanging quick passes with Emmanuel Longelo before applying a low finish for his first of the season.

“We’re really pleased about what we were all about today,” Halajko told 

“I felt we had a really good mix of defensive stability, working really hard for each other, being strong when we needed to be and aggressive with our press, but also having the quality, when it opened up and we had our chances to play, to produce good moments.

“I think the second goal was an example of that. We had chances to play good football and we managed to get the ball down and do that. We’re really happy with our style, intensity and what we were about.

“We’ve had a long time – nine days – to stew on the Brighton game, and we weren’t happy with our second-half performance then. We’ve had time to think about it, reflect on it, and work hard on the training ground. 

“The lads were desperate to put it right and they certainly did that today.”

Harrison Ashby scores the winning goal in the ninth minute of injury time

A fiercely competitive London derby, two committed Academy teams put in plenty of challenges as the tempo of the game lessened in the second half, understandable given the lengthy stoppage.

Nevertheless, even as the temperature threatened to rise at Rush Green, Halajko was pleased with the way his players kept their heads and focused on the most important thing: the game’s outcome.

“There was loads of professionalism,” he said. “I thought it was a really mature performance and we didn’t let them get back into the game. 

“We had the momentum in our favour and we continued to keep it. We didn’t throw it away and give it to them, which we’ve been guilty of before. 

“I thought it was a really professional and mature performance from that point of view.”

Wins against Arsenal and Chelsea at Rush Green Stadium – two opponents the young Hammers drew with at the same venue in the spring – represent progression from last season, with the development squad now third in the Premier League 2 Division 1 table.

Halajko continued: “Those two performances – those two games we’ve won – are certainly improvements on last season, which shows they’re learning, developing and getting better. Hopefully that continues for the rest of the year.”

As for the injury to Alese, Halajko said of his captain: “Aji’s first-half performance today was sensational. He’s a top, top player. 

“He’s our captain and he inspired us. He does before the game, he does in training, and he did during the game. Him getting the injury didn’t falter the lads – if anything, it gave them more fire to go and do it for him really.”