'Mission accomplished'

Terry Westley lauded a job well done as West Ham United safely negotiated their passage through the Pyrenean mountains to the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.

The Hammers completed a 4-0 aggregate victory over Andorran league runners-up FC Lusitans with a 1-0 win in sun-drenched Andorra La Vella, where temperatures touched 28C (85F).

Academy manager Westley, who was joined by Slaven Bilic in the dugout, was a happy man after seeing Elliot Lee score on his full debut in Thursday’s success at the picturesque Estadi Comunal d’Andorra la Vella.

Roared on by 500-plus Hammers fans, who travelled over land and sea and up mountains to follow their team, West Ham recovered from Diafra’s Sakho’s controversial early sending-off to go through with relative ease.

“Mission accomplished, you would say, over the two legs,” Westley confirmed. “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. We kept two clean sheets and the way the two centre-halves dealt with everything they threw at us, they were determined to keep the ball out of the net.

“The second leg was made very different after ten minutes and we ended up having to play with ten men.”

Sakho’s red card came after just 12 minutes and following a period where the Lusitans players were clearly trying to wind up the Senegal striker. A long way from the action, Moises San Nicolas was suddenly on the turf and, after consulting with his assistant, Danish referee Andreas Poulsen gave Sakho his marching orders – and San Nicolas a yellow card.

“It was that type of match, a bit niggly,” Westley continued. “There were lots of times when it got stopped and people rolling around on the ground and it was interrupted a lot.

“We said to the young ones that they really have to learn in Europe that if you are petulant, you can get yourself a yellow card and put yourself under pressure.

“I have to say I didn’t see the incident as it was so far away from where the ball way. It’s not even on our filming of the game by our analysts. It’s a lesson learnt and it made it harder for the remaining ten players.”

Moments after Sakho’s dismissal, any nerves were calmed by Lee’s first goal in Claret and Blue, latching onto a Matt Jarvis pass and finishing expertly into the bottom right-hand corner.

“That was the clincher,” said the Academy Manager. “We got one goal and made it virtually impossible for them.

“The one real opportunity Elliot got, he showed some class and finished it really well. He worked tirelessly on his own, as he was up there completely on his own after about ten minutes.

“All credit to him, and to Morgan and Jarvis in the wide areas and Diego Poyet and Josh Cullen in the middle. They had to work hard because we only had ten men.”

Westley now hands over the Europa League reins to Slaven Bilic, who watched the second leg from the dugout, with a second qualifying round tie with Birkirkara of Malta to look forward to next week.

“Slaven thanked the players because it’s not straightforward,” Westley added. “It’s been a learning curve and this Europa League is giving the young players an opportunity and something to play for. We need to keep working hard and becoming better with the ball.

“We all come back together on Monday when the boys from Cork come back and everyone is back at Chadwell. They will integrate and we’re all looking forward to it.”

Tickets for the home leg with Birkirkara will go on sale soon, and Westley encouraged the Claret and Blue Army to pack out the Boleyn again as the historic final season and European adventure continue.

“If we can get near a sell-out again then that will be a massive boost to the players. Slaven will be taking the team and we’ll integrate one or two more first-team players.

“No game is simple, but we need to get a goal and then move the ball and start dominating.

“We’re delighted to go through and it gives everybody at the Club an opportunity for another European game.”