West Ham crash out out Europa League with defeat in Romania
Slaven Bilic watched from the stands as his Europa League gamble ended with West Ham going bust and crashing out to Astra Giurgiu on Thursday night.
The Hammers boss left a host of first-team players at home ahead of this tie -- despite the fact it was hanging in the balance following a 2-2 draw at Upton Park a week ago.
Bilic was sent to the stands late on in that game and was not in the dugout as his Romanian roll of the dice did not see his side come up trumps -- with Astra captain Constantin Budescu scoring twice in four first-half minutes to cancel out Manuel Lanzini's early opener and seal a memorable 2-1 win for the hosts.
Hammers debutant Lanzini, who had already delivered a tempting free-kick and a corner which led to Kevin Nolan's effort being hacked off the line, collected the ball and his low shot squeezed in off the post with just two and half minutes gone.
But Astra proved last week that they can be a potent attacking force and almost levelled when the busy Budescu's whipped free-kick caught out Darren Randolph in the West Ham goal and came back off the crossbar.
It was a different outcome when he next had a sight of goal as the 26-year-old collected the ball before driving forward unchallenged and arrowing a low 25-yard effort out of Randolph's reach.
West Ham's young defence had started well but the leveller seemed to knock their confidence and Budescu was on hand to capitalise on some indecisiveness at a cross as he finished coolly to put the home team in charge at the interval.
As many as six of the visitors' starting line-up have never appeared in the Barclays Premier League for West Ham -- while defensive duo Doneil Henry and Kyle Knoyle and new signing Lanzini were making their club debuts.
Bilic had no obvious options on the bench as his experimental side toiled in the humidity inside the Marin Anastasovici Stadium, with skipper Nolan coming close on the hour mark as he looked to inspire those around him.
It was Astra who started to threaten again as the second half wore on and Fernando Boldrin almost followed up his goal from the opening leg with another here, only for Randolph to tip his effort behind.
Lanzini stung the palms of Silvu Lung with West Ham's first effort of note since the break, but there were only 12 minutes remaining and his side looked bereft of ideas.
Randolph was the busier of the two goalkeepers and was again at his best to push away two late Denis Alibec shots -- but his teammates could not find the equaliser they needed to force extra time and dreams of a lengthy European campaign to mark the final season at Upton Park came to an abrupt and feeble conclusion.