Monday 18th February, 2019 – Chigwell Construction Stadium
Written by : Karen Beard
Following the January transfer window, the U23 squad looks a little different. With senior players Vashon Neufville, Joe Powell and Moses Makasi all going out on loan, the opportunity has arisen for several U18 players to make the step up to this level.
The starting line up included several U18s regulars – Jeremy Ngakia, Kristijan Belic and Ajibola Alese, with several others on the bench. Also in the starting line-up was January signing Mesaque Dju.
First opportunity for the Hammers results from good link-up play on the right, with Ngakia feeding Kemp – whose cross then goes just over. A lively start for Liverpool also, with two shots on goal in the following few minutes, both expertly blocked by Pask. West Ham pick up the pace again with a decent effort from right back Ngakia from the edge of the box, quickly followed by a good run in from Dju, who is challenged in the box. The ball ends up with Kemp, whose shot is blocked by the Liverpool defence.
Youngster Belic loses possession on 10 mins, but works well to get the ball back . The ball is worked back up the field resulting in Alfie Lewis taking a shot that goes wide. A foul by Alese, 15 minutes in, results in a free kick to the visitors which hits the wall and the ball is cleared. West Ham push forward again and Belic wins a corner, which is taken well by Kemp (the role which is normally fulfilled by Joe Powell) but is cleared.
With the home side having a slight edge on the game, Kemp is frustrated when he feels he kept the ball in, but the Lino disagreed (not the only questionable decision by this linesman will make). On 25 minutes, there was a penalty appeal by West Ham, as a Liverpool defender clearly guided the ball with his arm – again not seen by the linesman, but everyone in the crowd – and dismissed by the ref.
Half an hour in and a Liverpool corner is the basis for a West Ham attack in which Dju, Kemp and Hector-Ingram are all involved, but the resulting on-target volley from Afolayan is caught by the keeper.
Another chance for Kemp on 35 minutes, but the angle is very tight and it’s an easy save for the keeper. A few minutes later, another chance for Kemp as Ngakia, Barrett and Afolayan work the ball forward in a lovely bit of play, but Kemp’s shot lacks power and trickles out of play.
40 minutes and it’s a chance for Liverpool but Belic works hard to block the shot. Another couple of chances for the Hammers, one of which sees some good link up play between Lewis, Hector-Ingram and Kemp, who did score – but was unfortunately a yard offside
A solid performance from the Hammers so far, but the score remains 0-0 at half-time.
A quiet start to the second half, but Liverpool have certainly come out hungrier and are beginning to test the young Hammers. 60 minutes in and it’s Liverpool who shoot, but Anang holds the ball comfortably. A tense and risky moment comes as Pask misses an overhead ball, meaning Anang has to leave the area to clear.
A change is made on 65mins as Dan Chester comes on for Afolayan. Dju is showing some of his quality with a lovely bit of skill and a flick on for Barrett, but his shot is easily swept up by the keeper.
Another change for West Ham on 70 mins as Dju is replaced by Emmanuel Longelo. Although Liverpool have had the slight edge in the second half, West Ham begin to pick up the pace with fresh legs and a slight change in formation.
75 mins in and Hector-Ingram is caught off balance and Lewis takes the resulting free kick, but his shot curls just wide – a good effort. Slight worry as Belic goes down holding his calf, but fortunately it’s just cramp.
On 77 mins and against the run of play in the last few minutes, the Liverpool no. 9, Glatzel, slots home from close range; nothing Anang could do about that. 0-1 Liverpool.
The Hammers kept battling with some lovely play between Longelo, Lewis and Kemp, which results in a header to clear for a corner, which is caught by the keeper.
80 minutes and Belic is replaced by Bernardo Rosa. Liverpool now on the offfensive and West Ham are forced to defend with Pask just keeping the ball in play for Liverpool to then strike the side netting.
82 mins and the Lino is having a seriously a bad day as he again misses a blatant pull but fortunately, this time, the ref spots it and a West Ham free kick is given. Sadly it amounts to nothing.
A final couple of chances for West Ham to level on 85 mins as Ngakia shot is headed out to Alese, whose decent strike goes just wide. Free kick given to West Ham after Lewis is fouled following a nice link up between Longelo and Hector-Ingram but Kemp’s shot clears the wall but goes just over the crossbar.
After 4 minutes of added time, the final score is 0-1.
Whilst it’s a loss, it was a strong performance that the young Hammers can be proud of.