Europa League
West Ham United 1-0 Birkirkara 

Thursday, 16th July 2015
by Staff Writer

It took a late, late James Tomkins effort to save face for West Ham on Slaven Bilic's home debut against Maltese outfit Birkirkara at the Boleyn tonight.

Despite having played a swathe of youngsters in the previous round against Lusitanos, the Hammers were full of first team squad members tonight - yet barely managed to scrape through against a team who came with their minds firmly focused on defence.

And it took a tap-in from Tomks right at the death to separate the sides at the end of a reasonably dull and lacklustre affair which afforded the healthy (yet less than capacity) crowd of circa 30,000 little to get excited about.

Although the Hammers were good value for the win that eventually arrived courtesy of Tomkins' late goal, the opposition goalkeeper was barely tested during the game.

Modibo Maiga, restored to the team - for pre-season, at least - should have scored with a first half header from six yards and then struck the post with a large portion of Justin Haber's goal at his mercy.

Meanwhile Kevin Nolan - whose restoration to the first team is also likely to be equally short-lived - was inches away from connecting with the goal at his mercy early on in the second period.

To their credit, Birkirkara were a far better drilled opponent than Lusitanos in the previous round and would have proved a stern test for many teams.

Yet that was clearly overlooked by pockets of the home crowd who inanely booed captain Kevin Nolan and then the entire team, for failing to score more than once against a team considered to be West Ham's inferiors.

Whilst West Ham will consider themselves somewhat fortunate to be travelling to Malta with any kind of lead, Giovanni Tedesco's side provided little to suggest they can score the goals necessary to overcome tonight's narrow defeat in the return leg seven days from now.

Before that, Bilic has two more games to look forward to in West Ham's hectic pre-season schedule - firstly at Southend this Saturday before they travel up the A12 to Colchester 72 hours later.

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Player Ratings

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo

Carl Jenkinson

Aaron Cresswell

Winston Reid

James Tomkins

Kevin Nolan

Mark Noble

Morgan Amalfitano

Matt Jarvis

Modibo Maiga

Mauro Zarate


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Noble)

Matt Jarvis
(Replaced Valencia)

James Collins
(Replaced Cole)

Jussi Jaaskelainen
Did not play.

Guy Demel
Did not play.

Joey O'Brien
Did not play.

Matt Jarvis
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble, Morgan Amalfitano, Matt Jarvis, Modibo Maiga, Mauro Zarate.

Goals: Aaron Cresswell 8                  .

Booked: James Collins           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Birkirkara: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: n/a.

Sent off: None.

Referee: tbc.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Mauro Zarate.