West Ham edge through on penalties
Published 23/07/2015 | 23:12
West Ham were made to sweat on their Europa League future as they were taken to penalties in the second qualifying round against Maltese minnows Birkirkara.
The Hammers eventually prevailed 5-3 after the shootout, having had their 1-0 lead from the first leg at Upton Park wiped out in the regular 90 minutes.
Both sides were reduced to 10 men by the time they had played 120 minutes on the night.
Slaven Bilic named a strong side, but they were soon behind as Fabrizio Miccoli gave the hosts a deserved lead after 15 minutes, while West Ham failed to create any clear-cut opportunities in a hostile atmosphere.
Their task was made all the more difficult when James Tomkins was shown a red card moments before the half-time whistle and they were forced to cling on to the draw as the game eventually went to penalties, with the hosts having Mauricio Mazzetti dismissed in extra-time.
Nikola Vukanac was the man to blink first from the spot, blazing over, and Diego Poyet held his nerve to send West Ham into the hat for the next round despite an unconvincing performance.
A second-half fightback saved Aberdeen's blushes after they conceded an early two-goal lead at home to Rijeka, before rescuing a 2-2 draw to advance 5-2 on aggregate.
Taking a 3-0 lead into the second leg, the Scottish Premier League runners-up suffered a scare after goals from Marin Tomasov and Zoran Kvrzic saw them flirt with an early exit, but they showed resolve to draw level.
Niall McGinn provided an immediate response with a shot that went in off the post, and the Dons were level less than 10 minutes later as Jonny Hayes finished from David Goodwillie's impressive run down the left.
Inverness' European adventure came to an end after a frustrating 0-0 draw against FC Astra.
Opportunities on goal were rare for the Highlanders with Constantin Budescu's first-leg goal proving decisive for Astra.
The Caley Jags held their own and were certainly not overawed by the task at hand, but Astra took advantage of their profligacy to eek out a 1-0 aggregate victory, thanks to Constantin Budescu's first-leg strike.
Northern Irish side Linfield looked as though they might cause an upset after taking the lead against Spartak Trnava, before eventually succumbing to a 3-1 loss on the night.
Stephen Lowry's first-half goal drew the sides level at 2-2 on aggregate, but Erik Sabo's brace made sure the visitors eventually ran out victors, despite being reduced to 10 men.
Newtown, who went down 2-0 in the first leg to FC Copenhagen, suffered a spirited 3-1 loss at home after two goals from Marvin Pourie sent the Danish side though to the next round. Tom Goodwin pulled one back for the Welsh club, but the damage was already done and Copenhagen cruised to a comfortable victory.
Shamrock Rovers and UCD also bowed out of the tournament after going down to Odd and Slovan Bratislava respectively.
Slovakian side Bratislava had Robert Vittek to thank after his hat-trick secured a comfortable 5-1 victory over the Irish side, although Ryan Swan had given the hosts some hope after pulling a goal back.
Odd recorded a 4-1 aggregate win after triumphing 2-1 over Shamrock, Gavin Brennan's late goal giving the travelling Hoops fans something to celebrate.