Woeful West Ham dumped out of the Europa League by Romanians
PUBLISHED: 21:55 25 August 2016 | UPDATED: 21:55 25 August 2016
PA/Press Association Images
The Hammers were second best against Astra Giurgiu as they lost to them for the second year running
West Ham United 0 Astra Giurgiu 1 (Astra won 2-1 on aggregate)
It was billed as ‘unfinished business’ but for the second successive season, the Black Devils cast a spell on the Hammers to end the European dreams of the East enders.
Following last week’s draw in Romania, Slaven Bilić’s battlers looked to have done the hard graft and despite dominating this one-sided second leg, they succumbed to Filipe Teixeira’s breakaway goal in the dying seconds of the first-half, which proved enough to send Astra Giurgiu into the Europa League group stages.
Both teams had endured differing fortunes in their domestic leagues on Sunday for, while Michail Antonio’s late, late header gave Hammers victory over Bournemouth, the rattled Romanians slumped 5-1 to lowly CFR Cluj to compound a wretched start to the campaign for the visitors, who are clearly a different proposition in Europe.
Following that first-ever Premier League win at London Stadium, the Hammers made five changes as cup keeper Darren Randolph, Reece Burke, Pedro Obiang, Angelo Ogbonna and Jonathan Calleri came into the starting XI, while young Grady Diangana took his place on the bench.
And, on nine minutes, two of those call-ups combined brilliantly as Burke slotted an incisive throughball on to the toes of Calleri but with the whites of Silviu Lung’s eyes in his sights, the Argentinian attacker could only juggle the ball into the clutches of the relived Romanian international keeper.
Then, as the quarter-hour mark arrived, it was Obiang’s turn to show Bilić that he deserved a starting spot with a low 30-yarder that Lung clawed around the base of his left-hand post, while Antonio also had an angled, long-ranger deflected wide for a second corner.
Gokhan Tore also curled a right-wing free-kick agonisingly across the face of goal as Astra struggled to piece together any meaningful assaults forward and, when they did finally muster a sortie upfield, the visitors saw Denis Alibec upended by the consequently cautioned Winston Reid.
On the half-hour mark, Lung’s lackadaisical clearance flew straight to the feet of Calleri but he could not control and the red-faced Romanian stopper gratefully retrieved the rebound.
Cheikhou Kouyate also headed high over as West Ham United looked destined to break the deadlock in a one-way encounter.
But with just a minute of the first-half remaining, the Hammers overwhelming desire to go in ahead at the break was to prove their undoing, when Sam Byram broke down the right and pinged a cross-field ball to Burke on the opposite flank, however after only managing to get his head to the lofted pass, the left-back lost out in a crunching 50/50 with Cristian Säpunaru.
By now, West Ham were pitifully stretched upfield as Daniel Niculae collected the spoils of that juddering tackle and slotted in Teixeira, who clipped an angled 15-yarder past the advancing Randolph as Byram fruitlessly flew in, in a desperate bid to prevent Astra from claiming their vital away goal.
Enner Valencia replaced Harvard Nordtveit for the restart as the shell-shocked Hammers desperately looked for a way to revive their European dreams and Ogbonna soon met Tore’s hanging corner with a header that the leaping Lund claimed at full stretch.
The tricky Turk then curled another right-wing cross onto the forehead of Calleri, who saw his downward header diverted around the base of his left-hand upright, while Byram launched an exocet into the six-yard box, where Antonio somehow nodded over, when it would have been easier to score.
Kouyate let fly with a 25-yarder that agonisingly drifted wide as it curled through the Stratford sky and, after Ashley Fletcher replaced the luckless Calleri, Reid sent a downward header beyond the left post.
Fletcher’s arrival certainly gave the Hammers more presence upfield and, after seeing his hopeful penalty claims waved away, the young West Ham substitute was out of luck, once more, as Lung blocked his point-blank shot with his knees in a one-man show of defiance.
Valencia’s 18-yard free-kick was also clawed away at full stretch by the athletic Lung, who – having been booked for time-wasting - also denied Fletcher from similar range in a frantic and furious finale to the frustration of the claret & blue fans in the crowd of 56,932, who were, by now, resigned to putting their passports away for another season.
HAMMERS: Randolph, Burke (Collins 88), Byram, Ogbonna, Reid, Nordtveit (Valencia h/t), Kouyate, Obiang, Tore, Antonio, Calleri (Fletcher 60) Unused subs: Adrian, Oxford, Browne, Diangana.
BLACK DEVILS: Lung, Alves, Fabrício, Seto, Alibec, Morais, Lovin (Florea 88), Niculae (Oros 57), Sâpunaru, Ionitâ (Stan 75), Teixeira. Unused subs: Gavrilas, Râileanu, Moise, Balaure.
Booked: Reid (27), Morais (54), Lung (69), Collins (90), Antonio (90+1), Byram (90+2).
Referee: Manuel Gräfe (Germany)
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Newham Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.