By Hughie Southon
Many have believed for a long time that Divin Mubama was the next big thing at West Ham’s academy and last night he showed that to be very much the case.
Indeed, he did the same in his first run out on the European stage when he was desperately unlucky to see a strike ruled out as it took a deflection the game the 3-0 group-stage win against FCSB in November.
Mubama thought he had got himself on the scoresheet, but his header was belatedly ruled as a Joyskim Dawa own-goal, despite wild celebrations from the 18-year-old.
Since then he has made a late Premier League appearance against Arsenal on Boxing Day and FA Cup debut at Derby County in January. His goals have also led the U18s to the top of their league and into the FA Youth Cup semi-finals.
Mubama’s strike came after he had been on the pitch just 11 minutes after arriving on the pitch side footing home from a fine headed knockdown by Soucek.
It put the icing on the cake in a tie that was well in the hands of the Irons after Gianluca Scamacca and Jarrod Bowen also netted against the Cypriot First Division title-chasers in east London, providing a memorable moment for the Academy of Football starlet.
“I am over the moon!” he said to BT Sport. “It is something that I have been waiting for, for a very long time. The form that I am in with the 18s and the 21s… I am glad to continue the goal scoring streak. I am buzzing!”
This time, there was no doubt about his goal and he could celebrate with abandon without fear of losing his landmark strike.
He added: “They can’t really take this one away from me now! Hopefully, there are many more to come. I just want to thank God and the Gaffer for giving me the opportunity.”
Teammate Bowen, who struck twice against AEK to become the Club’s record European goalscorer with eight to his name, was quick to praise the teenager.
Mubama has been impressing the senior members of the Hammers’ first team and more than took his chance as the Irons waltzed into the last eight.
Bowen said: “When he trains with us you see how sharp [Divin] is. And even little things like pressing the goalkeeper…that’s what the fans want and what we demand from our players.
“And he’s been a credit to himself, and I am buzzing for him to get the goal. He deserves it.”
Delighted he scored but even more pleased with his strikers instinct to be in that position at the right time. Shearer always says that strikers need to be in and around the six yard box between the sticks and on their toes. That’s where they get goals so it was great to see him in there.