Slaven satisfied with Birkirkara win

Slaven Bilic was in honest mood after seeing his West Ham United team edge past Birkirkara in his first competitive match in charge

Slaven Bilic was in honest mood after seeing his West Ham United team edge past Birkirkara in his first competitive match in charge.

The Hammers needed a 90th-minute goal from James Tomkins to score a 1-0 UEFA Europa League second qualifying round first leg victory over the Maltese FA Trophy holders.

A near-full Boleyn Ground was left frustrated as Giovanni Tedesco’s determined, well-organised side defended stoutly, only to be undone when the No5 netted his second goal in successive home matches from close-range.

“We knew that it was going to be like this and we had to be on one hand quick, and on the other hand patient because they were going to be with the whole team behind the ball, they were going to waste time and they were going to keep the ball when we gave it to them.

“They have quality and are totally different to the Andorran team [FC Lusitans] and, to be fair, I was really pleased with the way we played in the first half. We were just missing a little bit of quality up front and, when we hit the crossbar and with a couple of other chances, a little bit of luck.

“In the second half we lost our patience. I wanted the ball to go wide and get around them and make them tired, create better crosses or go inside the box with the ball. In the last 15 minutes we started to do it again and we had a few chances, had a few shots and corners and in the end we scored the goal we totally deserved to score.

“We kept a clean sheet, which we were expecting, but in these games you can lose your shape and conceded a goal. Now, we have a good result, not a smashing result and I’m quite confident we’re going to go through.”
When asked what aspects of West Ham’s performance pleased him the most, Bilic said it was clear his players had been working hard in the two weeks since they returned for pre-season training.

Many of those on show on Thursday had completed just an hour of action at Peterborough United on Saturday, but there were few signs of rustiness as the enjoyed 74% possession and allowed Birkirkara just one shot on goal.

“We are fit, not totally fit and lacking a bit of freshness and organisation. We have not had too much time to work on it, but we have watched a view video animations on the wall and the guys are doing well.

“Of course we are going to improve, but we were compact at the back and the two centre-halves concentrated and passed the ball and were really good. I’m pleased with the way we played.

“I’m not happy with the final third of the pitch and the result. If it was 2-0 or 3-0 it would have been good. We deserved more goals, but I am happy with the way we played.”

West Ham travel to Malta for the second leg next Thursday evening, with kick-off at the Ta’Qali National Stadium set for 8.45pm local time (7.45pm UK time).

The match will be screened live in the UK by Premier Sports. For details of how you can catch the action, please click here.