Published On: Fri, Aug 19th, 2016

Bilic bemoans West Ham's Europa League play-off draw

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Slaven Bilic rung the changes for West Ham United‘s Europa League play-off trip to Romania’s Astra Giurgiu on Thursday, but is disappointed at giving up a late equaliser to leave the second leg finely poised.

Just three players started both the Astra test and a 2-1 Premier League loss at Chelsea three days earlier, but it was one of that trio – skipper Mark Noble – who handed the Irons the lead from the penalty spot just before the break. With seven minutes remaining, however, substitute Denis Alibec smashed in after holding off James Collins.

“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,” said Bilic. “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.”

West Ham will be a strong favourite for the second leg at the London Stadium next Thursday, but a stacked fixture list – four days previous it hosts Bournemouth, before a trip to Manchester City three days after the continental clash – may necessitate another lineup of youngsters and other peripheral squad members.

Among those given an opportunity in the opening leg was Jonathan Calleri, a loanee from Uruguayan minnow Deportivo Maldonado, and Bilic was pleased with the striker’s contribution on his debut.

"He had one really good chance and their goalkeeper saved it brilliantly," the Croatian gaffer observed.

"He doesn't know the players and all that because he's only been here a short time, but he showed great quality."

West Ham has been busy in the transfer market this summer, with Calleri following Havard Nordtveit, Sofiane Feghouli, Arthur Masuaku, Gokhan Tore, and Andre Ayew to Stratford, although the latter fell to a serious injury in his debut at Chelsea.

Related: West Ham co-chairman confirms Ayew needs surgery, will miss 4 months

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