Injury-hit West Ham show character to delight Slaven Bilic
Published 21/08/2016 | 22:36
Slaven Bilic saluted his patched-up West Ham side after they got off to a winning start at the London Stadium with a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth.
The Hammers were missing injured stars Dimitri Payet, Andre Ayew and Andy Carroll but still christened their new ground with three points thanks to Michail Antonio's late header.
"It's very pleasing," said Bilic. "It wasn't a great game but we didn't expect to play like we'd like to play with the players we have out.
"I'm delighted not only for the three points, but because we've done it against a team who like to counter attack. To match them takes effort.
"If you are talking about character and team spirit nobody can say we didn't deserve it."
West Ham's cause was helped by Bournemouth's Harry Arter, who was shown the stadium's first red card with 12 minutes left.
Eight minutes later Antonio popped up with the ground's first Premier League goal, a far-post header from Gokhan Tore's left-wing cross.
Unfortunately for Bilic the new era had begun with some depressingly familiar news, with the perennially-injured Carroll being ruled out for up to six weeks with knee damage.
"It's frustrating, because he had done a whole pre-season," admitted Bilic. "But if you tell me it's four to six weeks, and then he's fit for the rest of the season, then I would take that."
The match will not live long in the memory but Bilic is at least already beginning to feel at home in his new surroundings.
The Hammers boss was also a player at Upton Park, the club's home until the end of last season, and had admitted his concerns about the atmosphere at their new Stratford arena.
But he said: "The atmosphere is brilliant!
"I'm a big fan of Upton Park, I'm not paid to hail the new stadium if I don't like it, I like those freezing cold stadiums.
"But I felt the fans, it was proper loud. So it's up to us. As long as we are winning and competing and they are going home happy, then they are going to pack this stadium."
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe was in no doubt about what had cost his side a first point of the season.
Arter was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Cheikhou Kouyate, but it was his first booking for dissent which irritated his manager.
"It's hugely disappointing. There was nothing in game and ultimately the red card cost us the game," said Howe.
"That's the one that has to disappoint, the first booking. We know the rules, dissent will be yellow cards and that's the one that burns with us. We need to be disciplined and keep 11 players on the pitch."