While many clubs are yet to even begin pre-season friendlies, West Ham have already played in their first round qualifying for the Europa League. No-one expected too much trouble from Andorran side Lusitanos, as the runners up in the Andorran top flight had lost seven of their previous eight games in Europe. This included a monstrous 11 aggregate defeat to Montenegrin team FK Rabotnički.
With new Hammers chief Slaven Bilic in Cork to oversee pre-season training, assistant manager Terry Westley took control of the match at Upton Park. Many players had not returned to training by this point and as expected Westley fielded a very young side, featuring the likes of Lewis Page, 19, and Reece Oxford, 16, who is now the youngest West Ham first teamer ever.
Bilic did fly to London to give the team a talk before the game, however this did not stop Lusitanos manager Xavi Roura from accusing Bilic of a lack of respect for not taking the helm in what would have been his first match in charge of West Ham United.
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The first leg began fairly slowly with West Ham having to wait until the 40th minute for a Mauro Zarate cross to find the head of Diafra Sakho, with the striker managing to double his tally with the last kick of the second half as he tapped home a Morgan Amalfitano pass from close range. New boy Darren Randolph remained untested throughout the match as the Andorran team failed to record an official shot on target.
One more goal came for the irons in the 58th minute, courtesy of Matt Jarvis’ cross which captain James Tomkins nodded home. Despite the match being relatively small the Hammers faithful filled the stadium as the travelling side was welcomed by 35,000 fans.
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For the second leg it appeared Bilic wanted to show he did respect Roura’s team and he flew out to Andorra to watch from the bench, with Westley playing an even younger side than he had previously.
However the game began poorly for West Ham as the first chance fell to Lusitanos, but the vigilant stopper Darren Randolph was able to see off the threat.
To make matters worse star striker Diafra Sakho saw red for an off the ball incident 12 minutes into the game, meaning he will miss the first leg of the next round.
Despite the bad start it was 9 minutes after the red card that young striker Elliot Lee scores his first senior goal for the club. He looked lively after but could not grab another as West Ham saw out the game to secure their passage to the second round where they will play Maltese team Birkirkara.
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