Astra Giurgiu 1, West Ham United 1: Mixed emotions for Slaven Bilic as late leveller sours Hammers' bid to reach Europa League group stage

 
Ross McLean
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Mark Noble opened the scoring for West Ham from the penalty spot (Source: Getty)

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic had mixed emotions after his side were pegged back by a late leveller to leave their Europa League play-off tie with Astra Giurgiu in the balance.

Skipper Mark Noble successfully converted a penalty on the stroke of half time to propel the east Londoners to a position of strength, only for Denis Alibec to equalise for their Romanian hosts inside the final 10 minutes.

A valuable away goal still leaves West Ham favourites to progress from Thursday’s second leg at the London Stadium, although a more positive result could have granted Bilic more flexibility amid a hectic fixture schedule.

“Are we happy? Not totally,” said Bilic. “Is it a good result for us? We hoped we were going to win but with this kind of team which is mixed between senior players and some youngsters, which is good experience, it is a good result.”

West Ham opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time through Noble after Cristian Sapunaru had been penalised for handball, while the visitors appeared to be in complete control of proceedings.

Winger Michail Antonio missed a gilt-edged chance to extend the Hammers’ lead but failed to convert a square pass from teenage debutant Marcus Browne with the goal gaping, and 90 seconds later Alibec rifled home to restore parity.