Bilic makes no excuses for Euro exit

Slaven Bilic was making no excuses after West Ham United were knocked out of the UEFA Europa League by Astra Giurgiu for the second season in succession.

The Hammers were edged out 1-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate by the Romanian champions, with Filipe Teixeira’s counter-attack goal just before half-time the difference between the two sides.

Bilic gave a frank assessment after a disappointing night at London Stadium, admitting Astra had deserved to progress to the group stage over the two legs.

“I would like to congratulate Astra as they deserved it,” he began. “It is a huge frustration because I said before the game that this was one of the most important games of the year for us.

“I said after the Bournemouth game that in the Premier League you can make it up, but this was like a final because you need to win to go through, therefore the disappointment is massive.

“OK, we can always find excuses like missing players and that we should have scored the chances we created and all that, but we didn’t play good. In the first half, we didn’t play with desire as a team, it was all individuals and we were second best.

“I said before the game in Romania that if you give their players the time to turn and play, they can pass the ball, of course, and we were doing plenty of that. There was not enough movement, we played very slowly and we didn’t take the few chances we should have taken.

​“They took their chance with a goal on the counter-attack. From our point of view, we lost the ball in a very strange way and they took advantage of the situation.”



It is a huge frustration because I said before the game that this was one of the most important games of the year for us
Slaven Bilic

Bilic threw on strikers Enner Valencia and Ashley Fletcher to no avail, despite an improved second half display, as further chances went begging and Astra goalkeeper Silviu Lung produced a succession of saves to further frustrate the Hammers.

“To be fair, we changed a bit in the second and thought we had to change the system and one or two players but deep down you know it’s not about the system, but about the way we played,” he continued.

“We created a few chances, to be fair, and those chances you have to score. It wasn’t that we missed the chances, but that we didn’t play good.

“Of course I am angry and frustrated and everything but I’m much more disappointed than angry, because we really wanted to go through to the Europa League. That’s why we tried so hard last season, to have this opportunity.”

On a deflating evening, the one positive to report was the signing of Swiss midfielder Edmilison Fernandes – a 20-year-old who Bilic believes can contribute to the Claret and Blue cause this season.

“He’s a good player who we’ve been watching for a whole year,” Bilic revealed. “He’s very young, a good midfielder and is not only for the future.

“We are not expecting him to come now and change the game for us, but we didn’t buy him as a talent to loan; we want him to be part of the squad and play this year.

“He’s very talented and can play in a few positions. He has good pace, good legs, good physique, good skill and a great mentality. He’s a good signing for us.”