Bilic wants more quality
Published 16/07/2015 | 23:11
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic accepted his side had lacked a cutting edge in attack after a scrappy goal from defender James Tomkins in the 90th minute gave them a 1-0 win over Birkirkara in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg clash at Upton Park.
The Irons were expected to make short work of the Maltese Cup winners, having seen off FC Lusitans of Andorra 4-0 on aggregate in the first round.
Bilic took his place in the Boleyn Ground dugout for the first time since his summer appointment and named a strong starting XI.
However, West Ham, missing s triker Diafra Sakho through suspension and others easing back into pre-season, were left frustrated as the visitors dug in.
With time looking set to run out, Tomkins bundled the ball into the net following a corner to give the Barclays Premier League side the slenderest of leads to protect in next Thursday's away leg.
"It is more relief because we scored at the end, but I think we played well, especially the first half," said Bilic.
"We didn't play really quick, but quick enough against this type of opposition. They are a decent side, they are not, with all respect, Real Madrid, but they are not like the team from Andorra or San Marino. They can make your job more difficult.
"It was okay for this stage of pre-season, the crosses were not brilliant, but then we created three or four chances, were a bit unlucky with hitting the post, but also we did not have the quality.
"We lost a bit of patience in the second half and were just playing square balls and lost a bit of strength and freshness, which is impossible to have at this stage of pre-season.
"Then in the last 15 minutes, we raised the tempo and put the pressure on them, to score the goal from a set- piece , which we fully deserved.
"We are well organised and are working hard for each other, but in the last third of the pitch, well, there you need some extra quality.
"We played without some players who are extra special, and with more freshness for these players and the ones who are missing, we will get that.
"I am really happy that I have a group that I can work with and will listen, to improve, which is what makes me optimistic."
Bilic added: "It is not job done, of course. They will probably play the same way in Malta, and will wait again for some long ball, some mistake or counter-attack, but we are quite confident.
"We still have respect for the stage we are playing on and our opponents. We have a very busy schedule because we did not know were were going to play in Europe.
"I am not saying it is going to be the same squad in Malta, but it is the game which we will try to put the best team."
Birkirkara head coach Giovanni Tedesco was satisfied with his team's efforts.
He said: " I am very proud of my players, we were playing against a very good team coached by an excellent manager, so there is nothing more I can ask from them.
"We will try (to beat West Ham in Malta), it will be difficult for sure, but the simple fact that we still have something to play for in the second game is something we would have signed up for before the round."