PARIS, France, Aug 26 – English Premier League club West Ham suffered a shock defeat by Romanian side Astra Giurgiu on Thursday that saw them knocked out of the Europa League in a mirror image of last season’s campaign.
Slaven Bilic’s side had left the tie in the balance after a disappointing 1-1 away draw a week ago and that result came back to haunt them as Astra took the lead on the stroke of half-time through Filipe Teixeira.
West Ham were guilty of slack defending as Daniel Niculae found Teixeira free in the box with the striker rolling the ball past Darren Randolph.
That was enough to hand the Romanians a 2-1 victory on aggregate, mirroring Astra’s 4-3 win over the Hammers at the same stage of Europe’s second-tier club competition last season, a hammerblow for West Ham fans hoping to see more European football at the club’s new Olympic Stadium base.
In other results, French side Saint-Etienne endured a torrid final 45 minutes at stade Geoffroy-Guichard after goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier was sent off on the stroke of half time for punching Beitar Jerusalem striker Itay Shechter.
The Israeli striker had collided with the French ‘keeper with his studs showing in a seemingly genuine attempt to play the ball and Les Verts’ Ruffier was appropriately sent off for his reaction.
Despite the red carding, Christophe Galtier’s side were never really under threat and saw out a 0-0 draw to progress to the group stages of the Europa League after winning 2-1 in Israel.
Italian side Sassuolo, who finished sixth in Serie A last year, qualified for the first time in their history for a European competition after a lacklustre 1-1 draw against Serbia’s Crvena Zvezda. The Italians had done the bulk of the work last week, winning 3-0 at home.
Belgian side Anderlecht were another high profile team to progress to the next round after they despatched Salvia Prague 3-0 to complete a 6-0 aggregate win.
Greek side Panathinaikos also advanced to the competitions group stage after a 1-1 draw against Danish side Brondby. The Greeks had won the 1st leg 3-0 giving them an overall win of 4-1 on aggregate.
Turkish side Fenerbahce logically advanced to the group stages after outclassing Swiss outfit Grasshoppers. The Turks scored two second half goals through Fernandao and Miloslav Stoch to guarantee qualification.