West Ham United went into Thursday night’s Europa Conference League meeting with FCSB safe in the knowledge that they had already secured top spot in the Group B standings, something that allowed David Moyes to name a heavily rotated starting XI at the Arena Națională.
The 59-year-old handed first-team debuts to 18-year-old centre-forward Divin Mubama and 16-year-old Oliver Scarles, while 22-year-old midfielder Conor Coventry was also handed a rare start and the likes of Kaelan Casey, Harrison Ashby, Kamarai Swyer, Keenan Appiah-Forson and Freddie Potts were brought on from the bench.
However, despite fielding an extremely young side, the Hammers managed to maintain their 100% record in European football this season, with two goals from Pablo Fornals and an own goal from Joyskim Dawa Tchakonte seeing the Premier League side run out comfortable 3-0 winners over their Romanian opposition.
And, while the Spaniard’s brace will likely steal the headlines on Friday morning, it was undoubtedly the show-running performance of left wing-back Scarles that was most eye-catching on the night.
Indeed, over the course of his 90 minutes on the pitch, the England U17 international was a continuous threat on the left, enjoying 77 touches of the ball, completing 41 of his 51 attempted passes, finding his man with one of his nine attempted crosses and two of his three attempted long balls, making two key passes and creating one big chance for his side.
The defender also impressed in metrics more typical of his position, making four tackles, one interception and one clearance, as well as winning four of his seven duels – a success rate of 57%.
These metrics saw the “dangerous” – in the words of Josh Bunting – 16-year-old earn an extremely impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.1, while football.london’s Jonty Colman awarded the youngster a match-topping eight in his own player ratings, as well as stating of the left-back’s display:
“Ollie Scarles became the sixth youngest player in West Ham history when starting at left wing-back, with the 16-year-old given a full debut in the absence of Aaron Cresswell and Emerson.
“Really impressed in the first half, providing good energy and crosses from the left side, creating a good first-half chance for fellow debutant and teenager Divin Mubama, shortly after teeing up Fornals in similar fashion.
“Deservedly the star man, pretty much everything Moyes could ask for in that position. Really attacking, with crosses leading to chances, including the move for Fornals’ second. So close to a debut goal as well and he would have deserved it too.”
As such, while he is still only 16 years of age, it would very much appear as if Scarles is an enormous talent for the future, with his show-running performance on Thursday night unlikely to be the last time West Ham supporters see the academy prospect in Moyes’ starting XI over the remainder of the season.