West Ham United Under-18s have won their first FA Youth Cup since 1999 after 34,127 fans at Emirates Stadium watched their impressive 5-1 win over Arsenal.
The Gunners had taken the lead through Omari Benjamin but then first-half goals from George Earthy, Callum Marshall and Gideon Kodua put the visitors in the driving seat before the break.
And Kaelan Casey and Josh Briggs rounded off a memorable night for the Hammers in the second half as their Under-18s became the first side since the class of Joe Cole and Michael Carrick to win an FA Youth Cup.
Arsenal v West Ham United
FA Youth Cup Final
Tuesday 25 April 2023
There was a real contrast in the dugouts, with Wilshere looking to finish his first season as a head coach with a trophy, whilst the Hammers were overseen by club stalwart Kevin Keen, who has been caretaker boss for the first team on three occasions, the first of which was all the way back in 2001.
One thing which was identical was the vast array of talent on display, with several players already recognisable to fans of both sides.
Up front for Arsenal was Ethan Nwaneri, who became the Premier League's youngest ever player at 15 years and 181 days in September when he came on for Arsenal against Brentford, whilst centre-back Reuell Walters has been on the bench for the first team for their last five matches.
West Ham also had a recognisable name leading the line, with Divin Mubama scoring for the Hammers’ first team in the Europa Conference League last month and defenders Kaelan Casey and Oliver Scarles also making their debuts in the same competition earlier this season.
Arsenal have not won the competition since 2009, when a team which included Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong and several other Premier League regulars, beat Liverpool 4-1.
You had to go back even further for a Hammers’ victory in the competition though, with Joe Cole and Michael Carrick among the side which beat Coventry City over two legs.
The Hammers’ chance of victory on Tuesday night was boosted by the thousands of so called away fans in attendance, with ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ regularly ringing around Emirates Stadium.
But it was Arsenal full-back Michal Rosiak who forced the first save of the match after five minutes as his 25-yard free-kick needed to be tipped over by the diving Mason Terry.
And the Gunners took the lead less than two minutes later when Terry parried away Amario Cozier-Duberry’s shot from the right of the area and Benjamin was there to convert the rebound.
The Hammers struck back just after the quarter of an hour mark though as Earthy gathered his initially intercepted pass to fire in a right-footed strike into the far corner from the edge of the area.
It was a stunning strike and the vocal away fans were in raptures once again soon after when captain Kodua sent in a perfect cross, leaving Marshall to volley home from close range and making it 21 goals in 22 outings in all competitions this season.
West Ham were improving as the half went on and could have gone 3-1 up around the half-hour mark when Mubama headed over.
The third goal did arrive before the break though as Kodua won possession in the Arsenal half and with Noah Cooper off his line, chipped the goalkeeper from 35 yards out.
In scenes reminiscent of the Arsenal first team against Southampton at the weekend, the Under-18s players decided to gather in a huddle as the Hammers players celebrated in the corner but to no avail.
Arsenal started the second period well but would have fallen further behind had Cooper not saved well from Earthy’s low drive.
The Gunners continually searched for a way back into the game but heading into the final 20 minutes had largely been limited to wayward and blocked shots from distance.
Rosiak did force Terry into another good stop but it was West Ham who looked most likely to add to the scoring in the final quarter of an hour.
And the Hammers made it 4-1 when an in-swinging corner from Oliver Scarles was powerfully headed home by Casey.
Chants of ‘we want five’ rang out from the away fans as substitute Daniel Rigge forced Cooper into a near post save.
And that is exactly what happened as fellow substitute Josh Briggs volleyed in the resulting corner having come on seconds later.
Arsenal starting line-up: 1 Noah Cooper; 4 Josh Robinson, 6 Bradley Ibrahim ©, 5 Reuell Walters; 2 Michal Rosiak, 8 Myles Lewis-Skelly, 10 Jimi Gower, 3 Lino Sousa; 7 Amario Cozier-Duberry, 9 Ethan Nwaneri, 11 Omari Benjamin
Substitutes: 15 Osman Kamara for Gower 46, 17 Sebastian Ferdinand for Benjamin 85
Substitutes not used: 13 Alexei Rojas-Fedorushchenko, 12 Josh Nichols, 14 Luis Brown, 16 Oulad M’Hand, 18 Maldini Kacurri
Goal: Omari Benjamin 7
West Ham starting line-up: 1 Mason Terry; 2 Ryan Battrum, 6 Kaelan Casey, 5 Regan Clayton, 3 Oliver Scarles; 4 Lewis Orford, 7 Patrick Kelly; 9 Callum Marshall, 8 George Earthy, 10 Gideon Kodua ©; 11 Divin Mubama
Substitutes: 14 Daniel Rigge for Casey 85, 16 Josh Briggs for Battrum 90
Substitutes not used: 13 Finlay Herrick, 12 Sean Tarima, 15 Favour Fawunmi, 17 Divine Mukasa, 18 Liam Jones
Goals: George Earthy 16, Callum Marshall 18, Gideon Kodua 42, Kaelan Casey 78, Josh Briggs 90
Referee: David Webb