West Ham vs Lusitans match report: Diafra Sakho gives Hammers a winning start to marathon season

West Ham United 3 Lusitans 0: Home side make short work of Andorran minnows in Europa League first qualifying round

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The Independent Football

With the first week of Wimbledon still upon us and the summer’s main cricket series yet to start, men’s football made an unusually early bid to reclaim it’s place in the sporting consciousness as the Europa League returned in East London. After England women’s heartbreaking World Cup defeat in the early hours, it was the turn of their male counterparts to take to the field.

In their last season at Upton Park before moving to Olympic pastures new, West Ham eased to a 3-0 victory over Andorran minnows Lusitans in front of a 35,000 sell-out crowd for the first leg of their Europa League first qualifying round. After the shortest break for a top-flight side in the Premier League era – the Hammers running out just 39 days after losing at Newcastle in May - Diafra Sakho scored twice shortly before the interval on a balmy East London evening to get the club’s first European campaign in nine years off to a positive start, with James Tomkins adding a third after the interval.

Slaven Bilic took position in the stands on his return to the club as manager, leaving coaching duties to academy manager Terry Westley with a number of youngsters included in the home side’s starting eleven. Sixteen-year-old Reece Oxford became the youngest ever player for the club, while Reece Burke, Lewis Page and Diego Poyet also started, alongside new signing Darren Randolph in goal. More recognised names included Joey O’Brien, captain Tomkins, Morgan Amalfitano, Matt Jarvis, Mauro Zarate and Sakho.

The hosts impressed in the opening minutes – an impressive Jarvis to the fore - but struggled to break down the visitors. Zarate and Amalfitano squandered chances before Sakho, top scorer with 12 goals last season, headed over an open goal on the half hour. The Senegalese made amends on 40 minutes, heading in Zarate’s cross before extending his lead at the top of the 2015/16 scoring charts with a second five minutes later.

Slaven Bilic has returned to West Ham as the club's manager (Getty)

Randolph endured a shaky start to the second half but his poor kick was not punished by the Andorrans, while Amalfitano - no stranger to goals from distance - forced Gerardo Rubio to tip over after an ambitious 40-yard effort. Oxford shot wide from 25 yards prior to Tomkins’ clincher, the captain heading home after more fine work from Jarvis on the hour.

Zarate and Amalfitano picked up minor injuries in the closing minutes as Elliott Lee, Josh Cullen and Djair Parfitt-Williams came off the bench to make it five debutants for the Premier League side and seven Academy graduates. Lee and Burke, with a header, went close and Cullen also struck the crossbar as West Ham sought a further cushion ahead of next Thursday’s second leg at Estadia Comunal d’Andorra La Vella. The victors will face either Birkirkara, of Malta, or Armenia's Ulisses in the second round the following week. Those sides shared a goalless draw in their first leg.

Fellow Premier League side Southampton join the competition at the third qualifying round at the end of the month, while Liverpool and Tottenham join next month’s draw for September’s Group stages. Should they lift the trophy, Bilic’s side will have to play 23 matches before celebrating in Basel next May. A long way to go yet, mind.