West Ham 0-1 Astra Giurgiu
West Ham crashed out of the Europa League at the same qualifying stage, against the same opponents, as last year.
Astra Giurgiu manager Marius Sumudica revealed that he has 25 players who receive a combined total of Eur 130,000 per month – less than some West Ham players get in a week. Sumudica admitted it to be “one of the best days of my life.”
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic admitted to being “frustrated” and “more disappointed than angry.”
“I won’t lose faith in the players on the basis of one game,” said Bilic. “The main problem is the players that are missing.
Despite the lack of Dimitri Payet, Aaron Cresswell, Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and ”Andre Ayew, West Ham expected to comfortably come through this tie, having drawn 1-1 in the away leg last week.
The home side began in confident fashion without ever really pressing the Romanian side.
The first real chance came in the 8th minute when Jonathan Calleri, put through for the second game in a row with only the keeper to beat, fluffed his lines and the chance went begging.
A further shot from Pedro Obiang was pushed round the post by keeper Silviu Lung.
The Romanians though stuck to the task, striking just before half time, when makeshift left back Reece Burke was dispossessed on the left, with Filipe Teixeira receiving the ball and striding on to drive the ball under keeper Darren Randolph.
The second half saw West Ham ringing the changes bringing on Enner Valencia and Ashley Fletcher in an attempt to break down the visitors. The impressive Fletcher came close to achieving the feat with efforts from the edge of the penalty and goal areas – the latter chance being saved at point blank range by Lung.
Lung was the hero of the night for Astri Giurgiu, keeping his side in the game with a series of excellent saves though annoying home fans with his blatant time wasting.
So West Ham bow out of the Europa League once again before the proper competition has even started. The result will make it more difficult to attract top European names to the club, though also stops the distraction of Thursday night games that have proved so costly for a number of English clubs over recent years, with resulting effects on their Premiership form.
What is for sure is that Bilic has a job on his hands to get his West Ham squad firing in the way that they did last season. The new recruits thus far appear a mixed bunch, with those like Fletcher showing promise, whilst the jury is most definitely out on the likes of Gokhan Tore and Jonathan Calleri. But early days.