Friday, 7 August 2015

Astra Giurgiu 2-1 West Ham (4-3 agg):West Ham sent out of the Europa League after surrendering a lead

West Ham were sent out of the Europa League after surrendering a lead on the night to lose 2-1 to Astra on Thursday, the tie 4-3 on aggregate.The Hammers had only been able to draw 2-2 with the Romanian side at Upton Park seven days previously and lived to regret their failure to make the most of that home advantage.
They were ahead in only the third minute when Manuel Lanzini capitalised on a poorly cleared corner but two quickfire goals from Constantin Budescu towards the end of the first half turned the tie on its head, the Astra man hitting a driven effort to restore parity before slotting home from the middle of the penalty area less than three minutes later.
It left West Ham needing a goal to force extra time but that crucial strike was not forthcoming for the London side, who are left to focus on their domestic campaign.
Despite heading to Romania on the back foot, Slaven Bilic – with one eye on Sunday's Premier League opener against Arsenal - picked a relatively inexperienced XI to keep alive his side's Europa League hopes, with Kyle Knoyle and Doneil Henry joining Lanzini in making their competitive bows for the club.
And the approach looked to be paying off when Lanzini – a loan signing from Al Jazira - cut in from the left to drill a low right-footed effort just inside the post after three minutes, with the home defence caught cold.
Astra came agonisingly close to equalising in the 15th minute, when an audacious Budescu free kick from a difficult angle dipped over the head of goalkeeper Darren Randolph and struck the right-hand upright.
The hosts were beginning to settle and pulled level on the night through Budescu in the 33rd minute – the forward sending the ball swerving out of the reach of Randolph after shooting between the legs of debutant Henry on the edge of the box.
West Ham's task became even bigger three minutes later, when Budescu found himself in acres of space on the penalty spot and, with plenty of time to pick his shot, made no mistake in finding the net.
The visitors minimised the Astra threat after the interval but struggled to carve out clear-cut opportunities of their own, limited to half-chances and optimistic shots from long range.
Denis Alibec tested Randolph as the match entered the last 10 minutes, with West Ham unable to pose a similar threat at the other end.
Alibec almost added a third goal late on when his effort from a tight angle hit the outside of the post but that miss did not prove to be costly as the Premier League side bowed out with a whimper.

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