By Alex Taylor
Slaven Bilic has pointed to the inexperience of his team as the reason his side drew the first leg of their final qualifying tie in the Europa League 1-1 against FK Astra Giurgiu.
Slaven Bilic’s side opened the scoring through a Mark Noble penalty on the stroke of half-time before Denis Alibec struck back with just seven minutes to spare to level the scores.
West Ham, who beat NK Domzale 4-2 on aggregate in the previous round, now go back to the Olympic Stadium next week knowing a one-goal advantage or goal-less draw will be enough to secure their passage into the Europa League group stages.
“Instead of killing the tie and putting it to bed,” Bilic told the Wet Ham Twitter account, “they got one and now we go back to London with the score at one-one.”
“We shouldn’t forget that we played with some youngsters who didn’t play much before and some new guys who didn’t play much.”
Youngsters Reece Oxford, 17, Sam Byram, 22, and Reece Burke, 19, all started the game in defence while 18-year-old Marcus Browne was given his chance to impress from the bench in the second half.
Astra beat the Hammers 2-1 in the competition last season but have had their coach, Marius Sumudica, suspended for the clash.
The tie now hangs in the balance and the clubs will meet against in seven days time at the Olympic Stadium to decide who will reach the group stages of the Europa League.
West Ham have never won a major European trophy and will be hoping to go all the way under their new Croatian boss.