Noble spot-on as Hammers held
Mark Noble's penalty gave the Hammers the lead in Giurgiu
Mark Noble's penalty gave the Hammers the lead in Giurgiu
West Ham United earn 1-1 UEFA Europa League play-off round draw at Astra
Mark Noble's penalty had put the Hammers in front on stroke of half-time
Substitute Denis Alibec smashed in an equaliser with seven minutes remaining
Denis Alibec netted a late equaliser for Astra Giurgiu as West Ham United
had to settle for a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League
play-off round in Romania.
Slaven Bilic's side looked to have gained an important away-goal advantage
after Mark Noble's penalty on the stroke of half-time put them in pole
But having beaten the Hammers in the same competition last season, the
Romanian champions showed their quality once again and there is now plenty
to play for as both sides prepare for the second leg at London Stadium next
Bilic was missing a number of key players heading into the tie, but he still
managed to name a strong line-up and the visitors dominated the opening
It was almost a dream start for new signing Jonathan Calleri, who was making
his debut for the Hammers. Noble's cross fell perfectly for the Argentine
forward, who saw his close-range header produce a fine save from Romania
international goalkeeper Silviu Lung.
West Ham came close again on 12 minutes when Gokhan Tore's corner picked out
Michail Antonio - operating in a left wing position - who saw his powerful
header cleared off the line by Filipe Teixeira.
Astra Giurgiu, who came away with a 2-1 victory in Romania last season to
complete a 4-3 aggregate win, created their first major opening on 15 when
Alexandru Ionita weaved his way into the box and fired a low shot which
produced a fine save from Darren Randolph diving low to his right.
As the game ebbed and flowed towards half-time, Tore turned provider once
again on 40 minutes when his corner fell perfectly for Reece Burke, but his
downward header produced another superb save from Lung.
The Hammers finally found a breakthrough when they took the lead on the
stroke of half-time after Cristian Sapunaru handled the ball inside the
Portuguese referee Artur Dias had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and
Noble kept his nerve once again to fire the penalty into the back of the net
- his 28th successful spot-kick out of 31.
After the break, with West Ham showing signs of tiring after a Monday visit
to Chelsea and long journey to Giurgiu, the home side pressed for an
equaliser and came close on 66 minutes when Junior Morais raced towards the
box and drilled a shot inches over the bar.
Substitute Alibec - another Romania international who saw his Euro 2016
campaign cut short by injury - also saw a lot shot easily saved by Randolph
on 71 minutes.
The Hammers should have put the game beyond Astra on 81 minutes when
substitute Marcus Browne showed a great piece of skill to burst clear of the
defence and only had the 'keeper to beat.
But he unselfishly squared the ball to Antonio, who made up the ground but
fired the ball into the side netting.
West Ham were made to pay as Astra drew level on 83 minutes when the ball
fell to Alibec from a corner. The burly No10 made no mistake, spinning and
striking his close-range effort into the roof of the net to push the tie
Bilic will be hoping his side can make home advantage count in the return
leg and the Hammers can book their place in the group stages of the Europa
Astra Giurgiu: Lung; Vangjeli (Alibec 58), Alves, Fabricio, Junior Morais,
Sapunaru, Lovin, Ionita (Florea 85), Seto, Filipe Teixeira (Balaure 90+5),
Subs not used: Gavrilas, Oros, Mansaly, Stan
Bookings: Sapunaru, Vangjeli, Alves, Alibec
West Ham United: Randolph, Byram, Oxford, Ogbonna, Burke, Obiang, Noble,
Antonio, Valencia (Carroll 62), Tore (Browne 74), Calleri (Collins 63)
Subs not used: Adrian, Reid, Kouyate, Fletcher
Bookings: Byram, Oxford, Antonio
Referee: Artur Dias (Portugal)
Slaven - It's a good, but not great result
Manager reflects on 1-1 UEFA Europa League play-round draw away at Astra
Hammers took the lead through Mark Noble's penalty before being pegged back
Missed chances and conceding from a set play frustrate Bilic
Slaven Bilic admitted West Ham United had missed a big chance to all but
secure their passage to the UEFA Europa League group stage in Romania.
The Hammers took the lead in their play-off round tie at Astra Giurgiu
through Mark Noble's penalty on the stroke of half-time.
West Ham weathered the hosts' storm after the break and looked set to take
an away-goal lead back to London, only for Romania international substitute
Denis Alibec to climb off the bench to lash in a late equaliser.
"We are disappointed with the equaliser because we probably had the game
under control," said Bilic. "They put us under pressure and took risks,
which gave us space up front.
"They scored a good goal, but from a set piece which is cheap from our point
of view. And it made it especially hard to take because a couple of minutes
before we had a clear-cut chance when Marcus Browne went on a great
"We should have scored and put the game to bed, but we didn't and it's 1-1
so we're not happy with the result, but it's not a bad result because we had
a mixed team. It's not a great result but it's a good result and I'm
confident about next week."
With Reece Burke and Reece Oxford impressing at the back and Michail Antonio
charging up and down the left wing, West Ham played positively for long
periods in the first half.
Noble was on the money from 12 yards as usual, curling West Ham into a
deserved lead after Romania midfielder Cristian Sapunaru had handled Gokhan
Tore's corner. That is now 28 successful penalties out of 31 in Claret and
Blue for the skipper - a record which surprised the manager.
However, Astra upped the ante late on, throwing on burly striker Alibec, who
lashed home moments after Marcus Browne and Antonio had contrived to miss a
golden opportunity to make it 2-0.
"It surprised me because I would not have known he has taken so many," said
Bilic of his captain's penalty record. "I don't want to say it out loud but
the way he is taking them is really impressive and hopefully he is going to
continue like this. The way he takes penalties, he should shoot more!
"We got ahead and then they put two strikers on and took risks and they put
us under pressure in the last 20 minutes, but they left space and we had a
great, great chance, but unfortunately we missed it.
"As I said, we have a good result and with the greatest respect to them we
should beat them, but we still have to do it. Anything can happen in one
game, of course, but we are hungry to play in European football."
Bilic was also asked for his thoughts about two forwards who have had
contrasting fortune over the last few days - new boy and debutant Jonathan
Calleri and the injured Ghana star Andre Ayew, who faces a significant time
out with a thigh injury.
"We wanted to introduce him in this game and not wait for Bournemouth, we
had a couple of injuries and we wanted to save Andy Carroll and Jonathan
played good. He had one really good chance and their goalkeeper saved it
brilliantly," the manager observed.
"He doesn't know the players and all that because he's only been here a
short time and all that, but he showed great quality.
"With Andre, we know he is our record signing and he is out for four months
and it's a big blow, but the time will pass and he's a good healer. He is
very professional and he's going to be back later on this year, we hope.
"It's not the first time for us and we'll show character and that's what
makes us such a good team."
THU, 18 AUG 2016EUROPA LEAGUE - QUALIFYING PLAY-OFFS - 1ST LEG
Astra Giurgiu 1-1 West Ham United
By Emlyn Begley
West Ham were pegged back late on to leave their Europa League play-off with
Astra Giurgiu in the balance.
The Hammers led just before half-time, with Mark Noble scoring a penalty
after Cristian Sapunaru's handball.
Slaven Bilic's side were looking comfortable, but 90 seconds after Michail
Antonio missed a chance to double the lead, Astra were level.
Denis Alibec held off James Collins before turning and smashing the ball
past Darren Randolph at his near post.
The second leg is at the London Stadium next Thursday (19:45 BST).
Relive the game as it happened.
After 80 minutes, Bilic would have been confident his side were heading to
the Europa League group stages, against the side who knocked them out last
West Ham still have the advantage of an away goal, but Astra's way back into
the tie will be doubly painful as the London side should have been 2-0 up.
Teenager Marcus Browne, who came on for his debut in the second half, broke
from his own half and unselfishly squared to Antonio, but the winger shot
wide at the far post.
Moments later, substitute Alibec, making his first appearance of the season
after playing at Euro 2016 for Romania, smashed home an equaliser from
Filipe Teixeira's corner.
West Ham made eight changes from the side that lost 2-1 at Chelsea in
Monday's Premier League opener, with Dimitri Payet left in London to rest
for Sunday's game with Bournemouth.
Bilic said that was by necessity to avoid injury, not choice.
Argentine loan signing Jonathan Calleri made his debut up front but had a
quiet game, aside from one early header which was saved, before he was
replaced by defender Collins after 62 minutes.
Winger Gokhan Tore, making his first start, was impressive with set-pieces,
crossing for Sapunaru's handball, a Reece Burke header which was well saved
and an Antonio header which was cleared off the line.
Burke was one of two teenagers starting at the back, along with Reece
Oxford, both of whom looked solid on a slow, dry pitch.
But Astra's late equaliser means Bilic will have to field a stronger side
next week if he wants a European run this season.
"We only wanted to rest two or three players - the rest were out because
they couldn't play," he told BT Sport.
"We wanted to put out a strong team. Next week will be the strongest team
Manager reaction - 'It is a good result'
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic: "It is a shame, but it is a good result. A
couple of minutes before the goal we had a good counter with Marcus Browne
but unfortunately we missed the target. Instead of 2-0, and probably killing
the game, they get a corner and score.
"We hope we will win the second leg but this was a mixed side with seniors
and youngsters. It is a good result. We played with some young kids and it
was a great experience for them."
Astra Giurgiu 1-1 West Ham: Hammers draw Europa League qualifying play-off
By Charlotte Marsh
Last Updated: 18/08/16 10:03pm
A late equaliser from Denis Alibec saw West Ham held to a 1-1 draw by Astra
Giurgiu in their Europa League qualifying play-off first-leg tie.
The striker hit home in the 83rd minute to cancel out Mark Noble's penalty
on the stroke of half time after a handball from Cristian Sapunaru.
The Romanian side knocked the Hammers out in the third qualifying round of
the competition last season, drawing 2-2 in the first leg in London before
Astra won 2-1 at home a week later.
Slaven Bilic will now prepare his side for Premier League action against
Bournemouth on Sunday live on Sky Sports before the second-leg against Astra
Giurgiu at the London Stadium on August 25.
It was Filipe Teixeira who looked the most dangerous in the opening
exchanges, but twice hit the side netting before West Ham started to test
the home side.
The first chance came in the tenth minute as Noble lofted a lovely pass for
Jonathan Calleri, but the debutant saw his flicked header saved at the near
post before Michail Antonio had his bullet header cleared off the line by
The former West Brom man continued to be the best attacking threat for Astra
although they offered very little to trouble the Hammers in the first half,
with Takayuki Seto skewing a volley on the half an hour mark in the pick of
the remaining chances for the hosts.
Antonio thrived in his more natural attacking position and nearly grabbed
himself a first-half assist as he went on a mazy run through the park before
playing a sumptuous chip for Enner Valencia - but the striker could only
shoot wide - before Calleri was once again denied at point-blank range by
Astra goalkeeper Silviu Lung.
In the 45th minute, West Ham managed to find the breakthrough as Sapunaru
launched into a bizarre clearance with his hands leading the way to gift the
east London outfit a penalty. It was captain Noble who stepped up and made
no mistake in converting from the spot to score his 28th Hammers penalty.
It was Astra who started the better in the second half, as Reece Burke
cleared a dangerous cross from Alexandru Ionita before Daniel Niculae headed
back across goal from the back post but Sapunaru couldn't connect.
West Ham had their first opening ten minutes after the restart as Calleri
chased down a long pass from Pedro Obiang and held off two defenders before
squaring to Antonio - but his effort went wide after a nick off an Astra
Home captain Sousa Junior Morais then tried to find a way to get his side
level, firing a decent long range effort over the bar before whipping in a
dangerous cross from the left flank that was cleared well by Burke.
Substitute Alibec got his first real chance of the half not long after as he
raced onto a ball forward from Fabricio Silva Dornellas, taking aim from the
left flank but Randolph read it well and made an easy collection.
The Hammers could have wrapped up the game in the 82nd minute as youngster
Marcus Browne raced down the field and into the box before squaring for the
incoming Antonio - but the winger smashed his effort into the side of the
net despite a perfect opening.
The Premier League side were punished 98 seconds later when Alibec struck,
collecting a corner at the near post and using his strength to turn away
from Collins and fire the ball into the top of the net to take a draw into
next week's second leg tie.
Astra Giurgiu 1-1 West Ham: Hammers let lead slip in first leg Europa League
play-off in Romania
21:27, 18 AUG 2016 UPDATED 21:33, 18 AUG 2016
BY TOM HOPKINSON
Slaven Bilic had to make do with a 1-1 draw in Romania after Denis Alibec's
late strike punished the Hammers' wastefulness in front of goal after Mark
Mark Noble did what Sergio Aguero couldn't and rammed home a penalty on
Romanian soil in West Ham 's Europa League play-off first leg.
But after substitute Denis Alibec's late strike the Hammers skipper and his
team-mates still have it all to do in the second leg of this Europa League
qualifier next Thursday.
Astra are the team which ended the Hammers' hopes of qualifying for the same
competition a year ago, a 2-1 win here in their home city on the banks of
the Danube giving them a 4-3 aggregate victory.
Next week they will head to the Hammers' sparkling new stadium hoping for
another unlikely win but, barring a disaster, Slaven Bilic's side should
have no problems in seeing it through.
Had substitute Marcus Browne been a bit more selfish and shot or Michail
Antonio latched properly on to the pass he chose instead late on then West
Ham would have had a second and more or less had the game in the bag.
As it was, Giurgiu went straight down to the other end and when the visitors
failed to deal with a corner Alibec fired the loose ball home.
Still, they really ought to do it. Although they were meant to struggle the
last time these two sides met, either.
Bilic learned from that defeat and is clearly paying Marius Sumudica's side
and the competition more respect.
Astra have earned just four points from four games in the league this
season, but they were clearly buoyed by the challenge the Premier League
side presented them.
They were lifted, too, by the return to the dugout of boss Sumudica, who is
serving a two-month ban in his homeland for a betting offence but was given
permission by UEFA to take his seat for the two legs of this tie.
His side found themselves on the back foot early on as Antonio looked to
make quick amends for the penalty he gave away against Chelsea on Monday but
his header was cleared off the line.
Neither side looked too dangerous up, although Jonathan Calleri could
perhaps be forgiven for feeling his way into the game on his first start for
the visitors after joining on a season-long loan from Argentine side
But he showed a glimpse of the threat Bilic believes he possesses when a
firm header from Gokhan Tore's centre needed a good save from Silviu Lung.
Just a couple of minutes later, Lung had a penalty to deal with after Tore's
corner was handled by Cristian Sapunaru but he dived left with Noble sending
it straight down the middle.
The travelling Hammers fans hoped Noble's away goal would give them a
slender advantage but they hadn't counted on Astria, resurgent at the end,
levelling through Alibec.
REUTERSFC Astra Giurgiu's Kristi Vangjeli in action with West Ham United's
Jonathan CalleriCalleri made his Hammers debut
REUTERSFC Astra Giurgiu's Junior Morais in action with West Ham United's Sam
ByramSam Byram impressed against the Romanian outfit
ASTRA: Lung 6, Vangjeli 6 (Alibec 58, 7), Geraldo Alves 6, Fabricio 6,
Morais 6, Sapunaru 4, Lovin 5, Ionaita 5 (Florea 85, 6), Seto 5, Filipe
Teixeira 6 (Balaure 90, 6), Niculae 5. Subs not used: Gavrillas, Oros,
WEST HAM: Randolph 6, Byram 6, Oxford 6, Ogbonna 6, Burke 7 MOM, Tore 7
(Browne 74, 6), Noble 7, Obiang 6, Antonio 6, Calleri 6 (Collins 62, 6),
Valencia 5 (Carroll 62, 6). Subs not used: Adrian, Reid, Kouyate, Fletcher.