Thursday, 6th August 2015
No less than 15 first team squad members were rested tonight as Slaven Bilic's team of misfits narrowly failed to upset the odds and were instead sent tumbling out of the competition.
Despite his attempts to remain positive about the Europa League and West Ham's participation in it, Bilic has found it difficult to appear convincing when questioned on the subject.
His - or perhaps more accurately the Board's - concern over the team's continued participation in the League, and the potential for fatigue and injury to key players manifested itself in tonight's team selection, a combination of reserve players and Academy youngsters.
With the club set to move to the Olympic Stadium next summer, it is deemed imperative that West Ham's Premier League status must be preserved at all costs.
A policy to the detriment of the club's first European campaign for eight years and to supporters who dreamed of trips to yet more far-flung European destinations - yet one that was always likely to be introduced following the loss of Enner Valencia.
Bilic rather optimistically claimed before the match that he was confident his selection would be strong enough to overcome Astra, who held all the aces having drawn the first leg 2-2 at the Boleyn Ground last week.
And initially it looked as if West Ham's new boss may be right as new signing Manuel Lanzini fired West Ham into the lead after just three minutes, when he picked his spot from the perimeter of the 18-yard box.
But Giurgiu were to secure passage through to the final play-off round before the Europa League group phase begins with two goals from Constantin Budescu in the final third of the opening half.
Budescu nearly embarrassed Darren Randolph shortly after West Ham took the lead, when a deep cross clipped the 'keeper's crossbar with him well beaten. But on 32 minutes the former Birmingham man was picking the ball out of his net when West Ham conceded possession before allowing Budescu to shoot unchallened from 20 yards out.
With the home fans still celebrating Budescu's equaliser, the Astra captain struck again - this time from far closer to goal, just four minutes after he had restored parity. It was a goal that was to prove enough to send the Romanians through to the next round.
Whilst the players - none of whom can be criticised for their efforts tonight - make their way back to the UK, discussion will continue to rage on the KUMB Forum and social media about tonight's team selection and the message it sends to supporters.
Meanwhile tonight's exit will almost certainly add unnecessary pressure on Bilic and his (first) team to produce a good performance at the Emirates on Sunday against Arsenal.
Gutted to say the least ????ó Diego Poyet (@diegopoyet7) August 6, 2015
West Ham Utd: Randolph, Nolan, Jenkinson, Maiga, Poyet ,Henry, Lanzini, Lee (Brown 80), Page (Pike 89), Cullen, Knoyle.
Subs not Used: Spiegel, Pask, Chambers, Nasha, Mavila.
Goals: Lanzini (3).
West Ham Utd absentees: Adrian, Cresswell, Tomkins, O'Brien, Ogbonna, Burke, Oxford, Jarvis, Kouyate, Obiang, Noble, Amalfitano, Payet, Zarate, Sakho.
Astra Giurgiu: Lung, Alves, Seto, Enache, Budescu, Morais, Boldrin, Gaman, Teixeira, Queiros, Amorim.
Subs not Used: Gavrilas, Alibec, Florea, Oros, Lovin, Dandea, Stan.
Goals: Budescu (32, 36).
Referee: Paolo Valeri.
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
No chance with the goal and dealt with what little other threat that there was quite comfortably.
Joey O Brien
Too casual on the ball. Got caught out of position a couple of times and needs to work on his crossing when going forward.
Tried to keep things moving out on the left but often had no options.
Ok defensively but his distribution is always going to function at a more basic level. Stupid booking.
Silly boy. His reaction gave his marker the chance to con the ref and could have cost us, especially as he constituted our main goal threat from corners.
Iíll give him MOTM by default as he slipped back into central defence without missing a beat after Tomkins left.
Wasteful with the ball and needs to be careful not to get wound up in these matches Ė he was only one rush of blood to the head away from a red for much of the match.
Pretty anonymous Iím afraid.
Tried to get things going on both flanks but ws let down far too often by his delivery.
Yes it was hot out there but he didnít look fit to me. Best contribution was to calm down Noble when he was I danger of losing the plot.
Infuriating. Continues to disappear down blind alleys with alarming regularity. Which is a shame because there is undoubted skill in there, just waiting for a football brain to develop to use it.
(Replaced Noble) I feel quite sorry for him. He must have thought that the days of being used as a lone striker (a role to which he is ill-suited) had disappeared along with the last manager. Sadly while we have injury and suspensions heís destined to be stuck in the job until a new striker comes in the front door.
(Replaced Nolan) Bright outing in the second half. He ws at least trying something different.
(Replaced Jarvis 118) Hard to mark as he came on and the final whistle went seconds later.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: .
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Joey O Brien, Aaron Cresswell, James Collins, James Tomkins, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Morgan Amalfitano, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, Mauro Zarate.
Booked: James Collins .
Sent Off: James Tomkins 45 .
Subs not used: .
Sent Off: None sent off..
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