Slaven Bilic: West Ham exit would have been 'embarrassing'

Slaven Bilic
Slaven Bilic played for West Ham between 1996 and 1997

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic says being eliminated by Maltese minnows Birkirkara in the Europa League would have been "embarrassing" for the club.

The Premier League side scraped through to the third qualifying round by winning 5-3 on penalties.

"These things happen in football and it would have been a major blow to be eliminated but we deserved to go through," said the Croat.

Former Hammers defender Bilic replaced Sam Allardyce as manager in the summer.

'We have to learn from this experience'

Modibo Maiga
West Ham striker Modibo Maiga had a goal ruled out for offside in extra time

West Ham went into the match with a 1-0 advantage after James Tomkins's late winner in London, but were pegged back by former Italy striker Fabrizio Miccoli's close-range effort in the second leg.

The match remained 1-1 on aggregate and the Hammers scored all five penalties to set up a tie with Romanian side Astra.

Bilic - in charge for the fourth time - feels the result will hold them in good stead for the forthcoming season.

"We didn't sink and to play 120 minutes and be one man down in heat will be good for the boys' confidence in the long term," said Bilic.

"I didn't expect them to throw the towel in. I have played many times in Europe and you have to cope with it.

"It would have been embarrassing, no matter the heat or that we were without many players, but we overcame the circumstances.

"This will help us in the matches against the Romanians because we have to learn from this experience."

West Ham fail to stay cool

Birkirkara and West Ham players tussle during the match
Both sides had a man dismissed in a heated encounter

The match was played in temperatures exceeding 30C heat Malta, and tempers frayed. Mark Noble was booked for an altercation, while Tomkins was dismissed after grabbing and throwing an opposing defender to the ground. Birkirkara's Mauricio Mazzetti saw red for two bookable offences.

"After the red card, it was harder for us," said Bilic. "We were the better team but we didn't create a lot or penetrate enough.

"The heat definitely affected us more than them, but it also affected them because they are not used to that heat even here.

"They didn't go over the top. I told the players we could moan about them provoking but it is very common."

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