Slaven Bilic watched from the stands as his Europa League gamble ended with West Ham going bust and crashing out to Astra Giurgiu on Thursday night.

The Hammers boss left a host of first-team players at home ahead of this tie - despite the fact it was hanging in the balance following a 2-2 draw at Upton Park a week ago.

Bilic was sent to the stands late on in that game and was not in the dugout as his Romanian roll of the dice did not see his side come up trumps - with Astra captain Constantin Budescu scoring twice in four first-half minutes to cancel out Manuel Lanzini's early opener and seal a memorable 2-1 win for the hosts.

Hammers debutant Lanzini, who had already delivered a tempting free-kick and a corner which led to Kevin Nolan's effort being hacked off the line, collected the ball and his low shot squeezed in off the post with just two and half minutes gone.

But Astra proved last week that they can be a potent attacking force and almost levelled when the busy Budescu's whipped free-kick caught out Darren Randolph in the West Ham goal and came back off the crossbar.

It was a different outcome when he next had a sight of goal as the 26-year-old collected the ball before driving forward unchallenged and arrowing a low 25-yard effort out of Randolph's reach.

West Ham's young defence had started well but the leveller seemed to knock their confidence and Budescu was on hand to capitalise on some indecisiveness at a cross as he finished coolly to put the home team in charge at the interval.

As many as six of the visitors' starting line-up have never appeared in the Barclays Premier League for West Ham - while defensive duo Doneil Henry and Kyle Knoyle and new signing Lanzini were making their club debuts.

Bilic had no obvious options on the bench as his experimental side toiled in the humidity inside the Marin Anastasovici Stadium, with skipper Nolan coming close on the hour mark as he looked to inspire those around him.

It was Astra who started to threaten again as the second half wore on and Fernando Boldrin almost followed up his goal from the opening leg with another here, only for Randolph to tip his effort behind.

Lanzini stung the palms of Silvu Lung with West Ham's first effort of note since the break, but there were only 12 minutes remaining and his side looked bereft of ideas.

Randolph was the busier of the two goalkeepers and was again at his best to push away two late Denis Alibec shots - but his team-mates could not find the equaliser they needed to force extra time and dreams of a lengthy European campaign to mark the final season at Upton Park came to an abrupt and feeble conclusion.


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West Ham:

Darren Randolph: 6 (out of 10)

Kyle Knoyle: 5

Carl Jenkinson: 5

Doneil Henry: 6

Lewis Page: 5

Diego Poyet: 5

Kevin Nolan: 5

Josh Cullen: 6

Manuel Lanzini: 7

Modibo Maiga: 4

Elliot Lee: 4


Jordan Brown: 5

Alex Pike: 5


Constantin Budescu: The Astra captain stood up for his side when it counted and produced the goods to turn the tie in favour of the Romanian outfit. He threatened when hitting the bar before scoring twice in four minutes to send the Hammers packing.


Constantin Budescu: Having fallen behind, the skipper grabbed the tie by the scruff of the neck and his equalising goal showed both ability and confidence. It also unsettled the inexperienced West Ham defence, which cracked again shortly afterwards.


With Bilic watching from the stands after his red card in the first leg, it was first-team coach Julian Dicks who was leading things from the dugout. The Croatian has yet to see his side win comfortably in competitive action - with their opening Europa League victory over Lusitans coming under the stewardship of academy director Terry Westley.


The main talking point was always going to be Bilic's squad selection. Unfortunately for the manager and all of those involved with West Ham, it did not pay off and even more questions will be asked about his decision to rest a number of key individuals if they fail to get a positive result at Arsenal on Sunday.


Arsenal v West Ham (Premier League, Sunday 9 August)

West Ham captain Nolan told BT Sport Europe: "We started off brightly but just got stuck into a bit of a rut, not going forward, just keeping the ball and playing it - myself included, with all the young boys. Overall we've got a fantastic set of kids and had a good go.

"I think where we've lost it over the two legs is definitely at home, losing a two-goal lead - it's disappointing on our behalf. And obviously we've then given a goal lead away here today.

"Over the two legs we're very disappointed because we wanted to go through. But some of those young boys have been fantastic tonight. They've certainly put a stamp on for the start of the season and for the rest of the season. They'll definitely be firmly in the gaffer's mind."