First Leg Draw Proves Costly As European Adventure Ends
By Tom Dowsett
Friday 07 Aug 2015 11:41:00
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Last Thursday's 2-2 draw against FC Astra Giurgiu at Upton Park proved to be costly for West Ham United, as, despite taking the lead in Romania last night, they were knocked out of the UEFA Europa League after losing the match 2-1, giving an aggregate scoreline of 4-3.

With manager Slaven Bilic serving a touchline ban after being sent to the stands last week, first-team coach Julian Dicks took charge of the team and as expected, 11 changes were made. Darren Randolph, Kevin Nolan, Carl Jenkinson and Modibo Maiga were the only four senior players in the starting line-up, while there were debuts for new loan signing Manuel Lanzini, as well as youngsters Kyle Knoyle, Josh Cullen and Doneil Henry.

West Ham knew they needed to score to give themselves any chance of progression to the play-off stage and they made the perfect start when they went on the attack and Lanzini worked space to fire past Silviu Lung. Not bad for the debutant!

The hosts went ever so close to grabbing back the advantage on 16 minutes, but fortunately for the visitors, Constantin Budescu's freekick beat Randolph but cannoned back off the post and the Hammers could breathe a sigh of relief.

The home side were coming on strong, and starting to create danger signs for their opponents. Thankfully on 28 minutes Elliot Lee was on hand to clear away a corner but three minutes later, poor defending allowed Budescu to fire a low shot past Randolph and they were back in control of their own destiny.

Four minutes later, the home side were on their way to the next round, as Budescu calmly slotted the ball home leaving the Irons needing to level just to force extra-time.

The tie was almost level again on 37 minutes, when Nolan was on the end of a freekick but his header dropped inches wide of the post.

The half-time whistle blew and the Romanians had got the Hammers just where they wanted them.

FC Astra almost made the night even more comfortable for themselves right at the start of the second-half, when Budescu took a freekick which fell to Fernando Boldrin but thankfully, his effort sailed over the bar.

The home side nearly sealed it with a third on 58 minutes, but Randolph was alert and raced off his line to deny Gabriel Enache giving the hosts clear daylight. 

More poor defending from the Hammers allowed William De Amorim a shot on goal on 71 minutes, but thankfully for them, the strike went wide of the post.

A minute later, another chance was missed by the East Londoners when Lanzini sent a corner kick into the box and Lee headed wide of the goal.

Boldrin went close for the hosts again on 76 minutes but Randolph produced a spectacular diving save to prevent the scoreline from becoming embarrassing and seconds later, Lanzini could have levelled for West Ham when he sent a low shot into the box but it was easy for Lung to gather.

To go with the vastly inexperienced team, Bilic had named more youngsters on the bench, so on 79 minutes, Dicks decided it was time to make a first change for the visitors, as he replaced Lee with Jordan Brown.

On 82 minutes, Randolph kept his side in the match once again when he made another superb save to deny Denis Alibec grabbing another goal for the Romanians.

The Hammers fashioned the best chance to grab an equaliser on 88 minutes, when Diego Poyet's cross dropped invitingly for Maiga but he promptly fired it over.

If that was a golden chance for the Irons, then FC Astra wasted one of their own, as a minute later, De Amorim burst into the box and shot but Randolph once again produced heroics to beat the effort away.

As the game entered four minutes of stoppage time, Dicks made a second change replacing Poyet with Alex Pike.

That was the last significant action of the game, as the final whistle blew to end West Ham's European adventure. Bilic can now look forward to focusing solely on the Premier League as he will name a full strength team for the visit to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal in the lunchtime kick-off on Sunday.

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