West Ham United 0 Astra Giurgiu 1
Thursday, 25th August 2016
by Staff Writer
Of all the things West Ham could have taken with them from the Boleyn Ground to the Olympic Stadium, humiliating Cup defeats was probably not particularly high on the agenda.However in only their third competitive fixture at the club's new home at Stratford, Slaven Bilic's side were embarrassed by a team fifth from bottom of the Romanian League who had previously won just one match this season.
The Hammers - who drew 1-1 in the first leg thanks to a Mark Noble penalty - once again failed to score from open play against the European minnows (or at all, for that matter) who sent United crashing out of the Europa League in the qualifying rounds for the second season in succession.
Quite how West Ham - who only needed to prevent Astra from scoring in order to progress to tomorrow's Group stage draw - managed to lose this will no doubt be heavily discussed by Bilic and his team over the next few days.
However there was a familiar whiff of complacency about the team from the very beginning, something that began to show signs of being a trend last season when facing purportedly weaker teams.
Since moving to West Ham manager Bilic has excelled against supposedly superior teams, whilst often performing less than adequately against weaker opposition - a charge that was often levelled at him whilst at former club Besiktas.
Those warning signs were evident in Romania last week when the Hammers were fortunate to escape with a share of the spoils, after Astra dominated the closing stages of that first leg of this play-off tie.
And facing a team weakened by a string of injuries and other absences - such as that of captain Mark Noble, who has been pivotal to the side in recent weeks - the visitors took full advantage of West Ham's lack of quality and urgency by scoring the only goal of the game on the cusp of half time.
Former West Bromwich Albion player Filipe Teixeira completed a swift counter attack after Reece Burke had conceded possession high up the pitch. With West Ham's defence at sixes and sevens, the 35-year-old Portuguese midfielder raced through before slotting the ball calmly under the legs of the approaching Darren Randolph.
That goal proved to be enough to win the game against a worryingly poor Hammers side, which featured new signings Havard Nodtveit, Gokhan Tore and Jonathan Calleri - none of whom managed to impress.
Fortunately there were at least some bright moments from fellow recent arrival and second half substitute Ashley Fletcher, although he, like the rest of his team mates, failed to find the breakthrough that would have taken the game into extra time.
Slaven Bilic - who was well aware of the importance to West Ham, recently re-housed in their new stadium, of qualifying for the Europa League group phase - slumped in his chair in the dugout after the game for several minutes, seemingly shellshocked by what he had just witnessed.
Meanwhile some 57,000 supporters edged their way away from the stadium in a similar state, whilst contemplating the prospect of yet another season without meaningful European competition.
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Player RatingsDarren Randolph
Barely had a touch other than to pick the ball out of his net.
Looked what he was - a fish out of water. Conceded possession for the goal but to his credit, gave his all and supplied a couple of subline crosses after the break.
I keep hearing he's hugely-talented. Sadly we're yet to see it in a West Ham shirt where he's been a liability. Positionally poor, awful first touch and weak distribution.
Poor WInston has one last night and was lucky to be on the pitch by the final whislte following some crude challenges.
The best defender on show, but surrounded by a supporting cast of clowns.
Yet to do a single thing of note in a West Ham shirt. Suffered a slight know towards the end of the first half.
The workrate was there, as always, but the quality and finesse sadly lacking tonight.
Playing Nordtveit and Obiang in the same team simply diudn't make sense, for they essentially perform the same role. And neither did that particularly effectively.
I've seen nothing to suggest that labelling him the white Carlton Cole could be considered inaccurate.
Another wh gave his all - perhaps too much, as he is want to do.
The worst player on view. Unfit, unable to beat his man and unable to track back (leading to the winning goal).
A busted flush. Simply needs to go for the sake of his career for his time at West Ham is over.
(Replaced Calleri) At least he looked lively when coming on.
Memories of Ian Pearce and Les Sealey as West Ham's bright new future began with a centre half deployed as an emergency centre forward.
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Match FactsWest Ham United: Darren Randolph, Reece Burke, Sam Byram, Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna, Havard Nordtveit, Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang, Jonathan Calleri, Michail Antonio, Gokhan Tore.
Booked: Winston Reid Michail Antonio Sam Byram James Collins .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Astra Giurgiu: Lung, Alves, Fabricio, Seto, Alibec, Morais, Lovin, Niculae, Sapunaru, Ionita, Teixeira.
Subs not used: Gavrilas, Raileanu, Moise, Balaure.
Goals: Teixeira (44).
Booked: Morais, Lung.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Manuel Gräfe.
Man of the Match: Ashley Fletcher.