Football

Zola hails Hammers youth

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West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola saluted his youngsters for keeping the club's European hopes alive despite an injury crisis at Upton Park.

Junior Stanislas, 19, marked his first start with the opener against Sunderland and 20-year-old James Tomkins added another after the restart.

It moved the Hammers to seventh in the Barclays Premier League and Zola said: "It's amazing to see our young players doing so well. We need their energy and strength."

He added: "We will need them to help us achieve our goals. When you have a great team spirit it's easy for whoever comes in to do a good job."

The visitors, who have now not won in five matches, actually started well and went close through Grant Leadbitter - but Robert Green blocked his finish when Djibril Cisse sent him through.

Cisse had a long-range effort saved seconds before the opener. David di Michele sent Luis Boa Morte down the left flank and he squared for Stanislas to tap home.

"Junior has been a surprise," Zola said. "I knew about his technical skills but I didn't know about his mental strength."

The second goal came in the 53rd minute from Mark Noble's corner. Tomkins escaped from Sunderland centre-back Anton Ferdinand, who was given a warm reception from home fans after leaving West Ham this season, and headed home.

The hosts were given a scare when Jonathan Spector required lengthy treatment and was carried off on a stretcher following an aerial collision with Tal Ben-Haim.

Luckily for the American, there was no serious damage. "He lost consciousness and his short memory," Zola said. "But he is fine now."

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Topics:
Djibril Cisse
Sunderland
Tal Ben-Haim
David Di Michele
Jonathan Spector
Grant Leadbitter
Junior Stanislas
Football
Luis Boa Morte
Anton Ferdinand
Premier League
James Tomkins
Mark Noble
Gianfranco Zola
Robert Green
West Ham United

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