Slaven Bilic watched from the stands as his Europa League gamble ended with West Ham going bust and crashing out in Romania.
The Hammers manager left several first-team players at home for this tie despite the 2-2 draw in the first leg at Upton Park a week ago.
Bilic was sent to the stands late on in that game and was not in the dugout as his Romanian roll of the dice was unrewarded. The Astra captain, Constantin Budescu, scored twice in four first-half minutes to cancel out Manuel Lanzini’s early opener and seal a memorable 2-1 win for the hosts.
Six of the visitors’ starting line-up have never appeared in the Premier League for West Ham, with defensive duo Doneil Henry and Kyle Knoyle joining Lanzini as debutants. Bilic said: “I wanted to go through. I believed that we could go through with this team. I’m very proud of the effort they put in and disappointed with the result.”
Lanzini collected the ball and his low shot squeezed in off the post with just two and half minutes gone.
But Astra had proved last week that they can be a potent attacking force and almost levelled when the busy Budescu’s whipped free-kick caught out Darren Randolph in the West Ham goal and came back off the crossbar.
It was a different outcome when he next had a sight of goal as the 26-year-old collected the ball before driving forward unchallenged and arrowing a low, 25-yard effort out of Randolph’s reach.
West Ham’s young defence had started well but that goal seemed to knock their confidence and Budescu was on hand to capitalise on some indecision at a cross as he finished coolly to put the home team in charge at the interval.
Bilic had no obvious options on the bench as his experimental side toiled in the humidity. Nolan came close on the hour mark as he looked to inspire those around him.
It was Astra who threatened again as the second half wore on and Fernando Boldrin almost followed up his goal from the opening leg with another, only for Randolph to tip his effort behind.
Lanzini stung the palms of Silvu Lung with West Ham’s first effort of note after the break, but there were only 12 minutes remaining and his side looked bereft of ideas.
Randolph was at his best to push away two late Denis Alibec shots but his team-mates could not find the equaliserthey needed and dreams of a European campaign to mark the final season at Upton Park came to an abrupt and feeble conclusion.