Academy boss Terry Westley highlighted the professionalism of the club’s senior players as 10-man West Ham sauntered through to the second qualifying round of the Europa League last night.
The Hammers were forced to play more than 75 minutes of manager Slaven Bilic’s first game in the dugout a man light after striker Diafra Sakho’s early dismissal, although their progress was sealed courtesy of forward Elliot Lee’s first senior goal.
West Ham will now face Maltese side Birkirkara in the second qualifying round, with the first leg on Thursday, the first of three more rounds the Upton Park side have to navigate in order to earn a group-stage slot.
“Mission accomplished, you would say, over the two legs,” said Westley. “We asked a group of players to return to work on 22 June and the cohesion between the senior and younger players was absolutely first class. I’ve got total respect for the senior players and how they went about it in both games.”
Bilic will not be able to call upon Senegal hitman Sakho for West Ham’s next three European ties after his red card for an off-the-ball altercation with FC Lusitans’ defender Luigi San Nicholas on 14 minutes.
Any fears that their man disadvantage would result in a difficult evening for West Ham, who once again selected a side with a mix of youth and experience, were extinguished when 20-year-old Lee, the son of former England midfielder Rob, fired into the bottom corner.