Arsenal U18s 1-5 West Ham United U18s
FA Youth Cup final, Emirates Stadium, Tuesday 25 April 2023, 7pm BST
West Ham United’s outstanding U18s completed a wonderful, historic double by coming from behind to defeat Arsenal 5-1 and lift the FA Youth Cup.
Roared on by in excess of 7,000 fans at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday evening, Kevin Keen’s U18 Premier League South division champions produced another superb performance to win the biggest prize in junior football for the fourth time in the Club’s history.
George Earthy, Callum Marshall, captain Gideon Kodua, Kaelan Casey and Josh Briggs, who have all played influential roles in the young Hammers’ success this season, got the goals, wiping out Omari Benjamin’s seventh-minute opener and sealing a memorable victory for this talented team.
Keen’s double winners have now won an incredible 26 of the 30 games they have played in all competitions in 2022/23, and could yet add a third trophy when they take on U18 Premier League North division champions Manchester City in the national final next month.
Getting back to Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup final, it was hosts Arsenal – the final switched from two legs to a one-off in 2018/19 – who made the brighter start. Goalkeeper Mason Terry had already palmed a Michal Rosiak free-kick aside and seen a Lino Sousa shot fly over his crossbar before the Gunners took an early lead.
Centre-back Reuell Walters intercepted and drove past three Hammers before feeding Amario Cozier-Duberry. His shot was saved by Terry, but Benjamin fired the loose ball into the net from the edge of the penalty area.
Keen’s side were down, but have made a habit of coming from behind to win this season. It was a habit that served them well again in north London.
On 17 minutes, Ollie Scarles’ interception was flicked on by Earthy to Divin Mubama, who chested the ball back into the No8’s path. The midfielder dribbled forward, saw his through ball for captain Kodua cut out by Bradley Ibrahim, collected again and rifled a right foot shot across Noah Cooper and high into the net.
Two minutes later, West Ham were ahead. A flowing move involving Mubama, Lewis Orford, Ryan Battrum and Kodua ended with the skipper crossing from the right and Marshall running between Rosiak and Josh Robinson to smash home first-time from six yards with his left foot.
Robinson’s evening would get worse, but not before Earthy and Mubama had sent efforts over Cooper’s crossbar. Then, three minutes before half-time, the Arsenal No4 allowed the ball to slip under his boot and Kodua pounced before lobbing the goalkeeper from all of 35 yards. The huge Claret and Blue Army, including 1999 FA Youth Cup winner Adam Newton and former goalkeeper David Martin, erupted in celebration.
Arsenal needed to do something quickly as the second half began and less than two minutres in, following another strong run from Robinson, Cozier-Duberry shot into the side-netting at Terry’s near post. No matter, West Ham went back on the offensive and it needed a fine save from Cooper to keep out Earthy’s low effort.
To their credit, Jack Wilshere’s side gave it their all to get themselves back into the final, but the Irons held firm.
Rosiak and Ethan Nwaneri both fired wide, before Terry denied the former with a diving save at his near post.
Then, with 12 minutes to go, victory was assured when an Ollie Scarles corner was powered in by Casey at the far post to score the U18s' 100th goal of a truly staggering campaign. The game was over, and another trophy secured.
And still there was more, as substitute Josh Briggs ran on and scored within seconds of his introduction when he volleyed in Orford's 90th-minute corner.
The Claret and Blue Army cheered, and did so again when referee David Webb blew his final whistle moments later to confirm victory for Keen and his players, who will now be remembered forever as FA Youth Cup winners alongside the heroes of 1963, 1981 and 1999.
Arsenal U18s: Cooper, Rosiak, Sousa, Robinson, Walters, Ibrahim (c), Cozier-Duberry, Lewis-Skelly, Nwaneri, Gower (Kamara 46), Benjamin (Ferdinand 85)
Subs: Rojas-Fedorushchenko (GK), Nicols, Brown, Oulad M'hand, Ferdinand, Kacurri
Goal: Benjamin 7
West Ham United U18s: Terry, Battrum (Briggs 89), Scarles, Orford, Clayton, Casey (Tarima 80), Kelly, Earthy (Rigge 85), Marshall, Kodua (c), Mubama
Subs: Herrick (GK), Fawunmi, Briggs, Mukasa, Jones
Goals: Earthy 17, Marshall 19, Kodua 42, Casey 78, Briggs 90
Referee: David Webb