Adam Smith and Alex Baxter
Sunderland FoL Scholars came out on top against a resilient West Ham side with a 5-3 victory in the quarter-finals of the National Football Youth League Cup on Wednesday.
Sunderland took the lead early in the first half, with skipper Aaron Duell scoring directly from a free kick 25-yards from goal.
Alex Ramshaw doubled the host’s lead seven minutes later with a laser guided strike into the top corner following a fine solo run.
The visitors pulled one back 27 minutes in. A whipped free kick was met by a West Ham header, which bulleted its way past Sunderland keeper Ross Cunningham.
Craig Ellison eased the West Ham pressure, putting Sunderland 3-1 up ten minutes from half time. Ramshaw’s run and pass allowed Ellison to fire a low shot at goal which proved to hot to handle for the West Ham keeper.
Sunderland withstood strong West Ham pressure toward the end of the first half, making several last ditch challenges to ensure they went in at the break with a two goal cushion.
The Wearsiders proved clinical in the second half, scoring two more goals despite having little possession and using what they did have to counter attack with pace.
Jak Hanson provided Sunderland’s fourth, after his low shot squeezed its way between the keeper and near post only four minutes into the second half.
The Hammers piled the pressure on again after pulling a second goal back. Sunderland failed to clear their lines from another free kick, with the ball traveling to the back post before being headed in from close range.
But Sunderland killed the tie with five minutes to play after a fabulous strike from the talented Duell, placing the ball into the top corner after the ball broke to the edge of the box following a corner.
West Ham scored a last minute consolation goal after an error from Cunnigham. The Sunderland keeper saw the ball wriggle under his body after a near post strike, but the Black Cats held on to progress.
Sunderland face Crystal Palace in the semi-finals of the cup and will go into the match brimming with confidence knowing they beat them 5-1 in the league earlier in the season.