West Ham United U18s extended their winning start to the 2022/23 season with an incredible 4-1 victory over Arsenal.
Despite the hosts making a brighter start to the match, the Hammers raced into a three-goal lead following a sensational 15 minutes. Divin Mubama scored twice and George Earthy’s close-range finish gave the visitors a commanding advantage heading into the second half.
Mattheus Roberts pulled one back for the Gunners to set up a nervy last ten minutes, but the West Ham back-line stood strong and Favour Fawunmi scored his fifth goal in four matches to top off an excellent away performance.
The young Hammers have now won their opening eight league matches of the season, scoring a remarkable 30 goals during this run. They are now ten points clear at the top of the U18s Premier League South table.
U18s coach Gerard Prenderville was delighted with the result but suggested that his side still have some work to do.
“It’s a good result for us,” Prenderville told whufc.com. “It was a pleasing performance and we have come away with lots of positives and three points.
"There is definitely still some work to do on the training ground. We will go away and analyse the match as we always do as we can always improve. We created numerous opportunities and perhaps we could have or should have scored more. Nevertheless, it was a pleasing performance and a positive result.”
The Gunners dominated possession in the early exchanges and almost took the lead in the opening ten minutes. Kaleel Green worked the ball to Ethan Nwaneri on the edge of the 18-yard box and his powerful strike clipped the top of the crossbar.
Arsenal were determined to play out from the back despite the high-press deployed by the visitors. The Hammers press proved to be decisive as Earthy dispossessed the Arsenal goalkeeper before squaring the ball to Mubama, who calmly passed the ball into the empty net, giving his side the lead.
The opening goal appeared to energise the young Irons and Earthy made it 2-0 just minutes later. Oliver Scarles’ high corner looped over Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Kovacevic and Earthy was on hand to tap the ball into the net from close range.
West Ham took a 3-0 lead on 38 minutes with a goal of sublime quality. Lewis Orford received the ball 30 yards out and clipped in a majestic ball to Mubama, with the striker expertly flicking the ball into the top left corner with his head.
The Hammers started the second half just as they had finished the first and Mubama came close to securing his hat-trick. Favour Fawunmi did superbly to hold the ball up on the right wing before playing the ball across to Earthy. The midfielder turned and slid the ball to Mubama, but his strike was parried away by Kovacevic.
Arsenal pulled a goal back through Roberts on 77 minutes. A dangerous cross into the box was initially well dealt with by Sean Tarima but the ball found its way to Roberts, who smashed the ball into the net on the volley.
The Gunners pushed for a second but the Hammers’ defence stood strong and Fawunmi added a fourth in additional time. The winger showed strength and determination on the left-flank to force a one-on-one with the goalkeeper and Fawunmi emerged victorious, beating Kovacevic with a smart finish to round off a fantastic day for the young Irons.
Prenderville was delighted to see the side score four times but he was especially pleased to see the variation in goals.
“We scored good goals today,” he reflected. “They were all very different goals. We did extremely well for the first goal, we pressed high and dispossessed Arsenal. George made the right decision and squared it to Divin who had an open goal.
“We scored from a set play which is also pleasing and then the third goal was a great team goal. Lewis put in a fantastic cross for Divin who finished well and then the fourth goal was good play from Favour.
“We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves though. We want to just keep doing what we’re doing. The whole squad has been fantastic, including the boys that have dropped back down from the U21s. We had a good week of training and it was nice for us to score four goals today.”
Prenderville was slightly disappointed that the Hammers couldn’t secure a fourth consecutive clean sheet in the league, but he was pleased with how the side responded to conceding.
He said: “Arsenal got one back and all of a sudden they were back in it. At 3-0 up we were very comfortable and I think it was good to see us weather some late pressure.
“It’s all part of the players’ development to face difficult periods in matches and the boys showed togetherness and unity to get through that spell. It was great for us to defend so well during that spell and then Favour obviously killed the game off completely right at the end.”
The Hammers’ victory against the Gunners marked a brilliant start to a challenging week with two more London derbies to come in the shape of Chelsea and Tottenham Totspur.
Prenderville added: “We just need to keep building, nothing changes from our point of view. We’ll be back in on Monday to prepare for Tuesday and hopefully we will be able to produce another big performance.
“We have the Youth Cup coming up as well, so there are some important matches for us. We go into every match with the same attitude, we always want to win. We will continue to train hard ahead of the next matches. We want to keep pushing.”
West Ham United U18s: Terry; Tamina, Falase, Casey, Scarles, Clayton, Orford, Earthy (Rigge 75) , Kelly, Kodua (Fawunmi 46), Mubama (Marshall 69)
Subs not used: Herrick, Bates
Goals: Mubama 24, 38, Earthy 29, Fawunmi 90+2