West Ham United's European adventure nearly came unstuck last night as they were taken to penalties by Maltese minnows Birkirkara. Fabrizio Miccoli's strike early in the first-half levelled the aggregate scores at 1-1 as both sides ended the game with 10 men, James Tomkins seeing red for West Ham before Mauricio Mazzetti was dismissed in extra time for the hosts, before the Hammers progressed to the third qualifying round after a successful penalty shootout.
The hosts began much the stronger, Ryan Camenzuli shooting over before the Maltese side took a deserved lead after 15 minutes. Former Italy international Miccoli, 36, beat Joey O’Brien to a cross to level the aggregate scores in front of a raucous crowd and score the first goal conceded by the Hammers this season.
Miccoli continued to cause problems for the visiting side and was involved in an argument with Mark Noble before West Ham’s task grew even more daunting on the stroke of half-time when they were reduced to 10 men for the second away tie in succession.
Tomkins, whose late effort at Upton Park had given the Premier League side a slender advantage, wrestled Nikola Vukanac to the ground inside the area and was dismissed by Albanian referee Enea Jorgji. The decision was ridiculed by injured team-mate Andy Carroll, who tweeted: “What am I seeing!!! Shocking decision.”
What am I seeing!!! SHOCKING DECISION #COYI; Andy Carroll (@AndyTCarroll) July 23, 2015
Marcelina had a shot saved by Adrian while Miccoli saw penalty appeals waved away after going to ground under a challenge from James Collins. Matt Jarvis’s calls for a spot-kick were also denied with 20 minutes remaining after he appeared to be caught by Mauricio Mazzetti before Adrian was again called into action, by Camenzuli.
West Ham began extra time with renewed purpose, Jarvis having a shot deflected wide. Vito Plut went close at the other end before Mazzetti was sent off. West Ham eventually secured the victory thanks to a 5-3 penalty shootout triumph.
Romanians Astra Giurgiu await the winners in the third qualifying round after ending Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s debut European campaign last night. The Scottish side managed a goalless draw at the Caledonian Stadium but lost 1-0 on aggregate.
Aberdeen progressed despite being held to a 2-2 draw by HNK Rijeka at Pittodrie. Leading 3-0 from the first leg in Croatia, the Dons fell behind to a fine effort from Marin Tomasov before Zoran Kvrzic induced frayed nerves as he pulled a second back midway through the second half.
Home nerves were soothed almost instantly when Niall McGinn converted David Goodwillie’s cross, with the latter then setting up Jonny Hayes to restore Aberdeen’s three-goal cushion with 20 minutes remaining and secure a trip to Kazakhstan to face Kairat.
University College Dublin’s run came to an end, losing 5-1 at home to Slovan Bratislava for a 6-1 aggregate exit, while fellow Irish side Shamrock Rovers, who made the group stages of the competition four seasons ago, lost 2-1 at Norwegian side Odd, 4-1 overall.
Welsh interest in the competition came to an end as Newtown were beaten 3-1 at home by Copenhagen, losing 5-1 on aggregate, while Northern Ireland’s Linfield also went down 3-1 at home, going out 5-2 to Spartak Trnava, of Slovakia.
Selected Europa League third qualifying round ties:
Thursday 30 July (first legs)
Kairat v Aberdeen
Southampton v Vitesse
West Ham v Astra
Thursday 6 August (second legs)
Aberdeen v Kairat
Astra v West Ham
Vitesse v Southampton
- More about:
- West Ham United