West Ham and Astra draw in Europa League qualification


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 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.

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.

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.

Astra had a better start 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 foot.

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. 

West Ham 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.