|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Ten-man West Ham beat Birkirkara on penalties to stay in Europa League
datePublished Thursday 23 July 2015 23.03 BST
Ten-man West Ham needed a penalty shootout to see off a spirited Birkirkara and progress into the Europa League third qualifying round after toiling in the Maltese heat. A 1-0 defeat and disappointing second-leg display meant the Premier League side needed penalties to go through. The Hammers scored all five of their kicks to the Maltese side’s three.
The substitute Diego Poyet, son of the former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder Gus, stroked home the winning penalty after Birkirkara had also been reduced to 10 men during extra-time, when Mauricio Mazzetti was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Having scored his side’s last-gasp winner in the first leg at Upton Park, James Tomkins was sent off before half-time at the Ta’ Qali National Stadium in Valletta.
With Diafra Sakho banned after his red card in the previous round, West Ham – who qualified for the competition through the Fair Play League – had Mauro Zárate as a lone striker and rarely threatened.
The 36-year-old former Italy international Fabrizio Miccoli put Birkirkara in front on 14 minutes with one of the only clear-cut chances of the match, with Giovanni Tedesco’s side more than a match for an experienced West Ham line-up.
The hosts got off to a lively start as they looked to cancel out the first-leg deficit. Indecision from James Collins almost allowed a dangerous set piece to sweep through the box before it was poked behind by Joey O’Brien.
Despite being on the back foot in the opening 10 minutes, the Hammers had the first telling effort of the game when Mark Noble’s corner was cleared as far as Matt Jarvis, who controlled the ball on his chest before firing a low volley straight at Justin Haber in the Birkirkara goal.
However, that did not dent the early confidence of the home side and Miccoli was on hand to sweep home at the near post after smart work by his strike partner Ellenton Liliu.
Mazzetti was then booked for a foul on Zárate before the Hammers’ frustrations continued. After Tomkins and Nicolai Vucanac wrestled with one another in the penalty area before a West Ham free-kick, the Hammers defender was sent off and the home player booked.
Little changed after the interval and the West Ham coach, Slaven Bilic, responded by introducing Poyet and Modibo Maïga in place of the captain, Kevin Nolan, and Morgan Amalfitano. Jarvis went down under pressure from Vucanac on the hour mark but the referee, Enea Jorgji, was unmoved by the penalty appeals. The winger had a more substantial claim rejected shortly afterwards but West Ham still could not work Haber.
The second half was bereft of chances and it was no surprise when the game drifted into extra time, with Birkirkara looking to hit on the counterattack.
Mazzetti’s red card in the early stages of the second period of extra time levelled the numbers, and Maïga had a late effort chalked off for offside.
That took the game to penalties and Noble, Zárate, Aaron Cresswell, O’Brien and Poyet scored to set the Hammers up with a third qualifying round clash with Astra Giurgiu of Romania, the conquerors of the Scottish side Inverness Caledonian Thistle.