Highlights & Reaction: Sunderland defeat ends PL2 campaign for U21s

Sunderland U21s 3-3 West Ham United U21s (Penalties: Sunderland 5-3 West Ham United)
Premier League 2 playoffs quarter-finals, Eppleton Colliery Football Ground, Monday 13 May 2024, 7pm BST


West Ham United U21s exited the Premier League 2 playoffs following a penalty shootout defeat in an enthralling quarter-final at Sunderland on Monday evening.

A six-goal thriller unfolded throughout a superb 120 minutes, which finished 3-3, before Sunderland took the win by a 5-3 scoreline on spot-kicks. 

It seemed a world away from Sunderland celebrating their win that Gideon Kodua found the opener on 40 minutes when he tapped home after Kaelan Casey headed a well-worked corner from Lewis Orford into his path. 

The Hammers battled well across the next period but saw victory snatched from their grasp in normal time by a strike from Sunderland skipper Ellis Taylor in minute 80 and had to go again in extra time.

However, Patrick Kelly finished a well-worked move with a neat strike from the edge of the area, to give the U21s the lead heading into the second half of extra time.

But it was in the final 15 that the game ebbed and flowed to a thrilling conclusion following a second Sunderland goal from Caden Kelly that made the game 2-2 with nine minutes to play.

After Orford then missed his spot-kick, Callum Marshall thought he had found the winner when he expertly finished from inside the area three minutes from the end of the 120. 

But Sunderland were not done just yet and their third, one that was somehow bundled over the line by Tom Watson in the 119th minute, despite a hatful of Hammers making superb blocks, set up the penalty shootout which the hosts ultimately edged on home soil.

Keenan Appiah Forson saw West Ham’s fourth spot-kick saved after Orford, Marshall, and Kelly had all found the net from 12 yards. 

Watson then made it five perfect penalties to book Sunderland's place in the semi-finals at West Ham’s expense. 


West Ham United U21s: Knightbridge, Appiah-Forson, Casey (Tarima 87), Forbes ©, Mayers, Moore (Adiele 91), Orford, Kelly, Kodua (Swyer 91), Marshall, Earthy
Subs not used: Terry (GK), Ajala

Goals: Kodua 40, Kelly 105+5, Marshall 117

Booked: Orford, Kelly, Earthy

Potts praises Hammers' efforts despite penalty defeat

A hard-fought game but one West Ham just could not find that extra gear that we have become accustomed to this season.

U21s lead coach Steve Potts admitted that was just the case and he reflected on a narrow exit by the lottery of spot-kicks.

He stated: "It's a credit to Sunderland because they didn't go away but I thought we were the better team throughout the 120 minutes. 

"But I don't think we were at our best and at the level that I know we can be at because we had the game won but had to go again in extra-time. 

"We had a penalty appeal and then we got the penalty in extra-time and missed it and then had to keep going and conceded late when we thought we had that winner. So, it is tough to take but it is part of the group's learning to see the game out. 

"Overall, we have come away from home and been up against it with the crowd and that is a great experience because a lot of these boys are going to have careers and be up against that week in and week out."