West Ham throw away a two-goal lead as Bilic sent to the sands
WEST HAM 2 ASTRA GIURGIU 2
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic was sent to the stands after seeing his side let a two-goal lead slip as they once again toiled with 10-men as their quest to reach the Europa League group stages lurched on.
Enner Valencia and Mauro Zarate had put the Hammers well in control of their third qualifying round tie against Astra Giurgiu - before James Collins became the third player to be sent off in five games under Bilic, who was also dismissed by referee Adrien Jaccottet in the closing stages.
Despite dominating before the red card, West Ham could not deal with their Romanian opponents who made the most of their numerical advantage as Fernando Boldrin thrashed home, with debutant Angelo Ogbonna then scoring an own goal with the match ending 2-2.
Bilic had named a strong side, with Dimitri Payet shining for much of his debut, but he will now be forced to do likewise in Romania next week - something he would no doubt have wanted to avoid given West Ham open their Premier League season at Arsenal three days later.
Valencia opened the scoring through Valencia after smart work by Payet, and Zarate's solo effort doubled the hosts' advantage before Collins was shown a second yellow card for hauling down Constantin Budescu.
That dismissal meant the Wales defender became the third West Ham player to be sent off in this short Europa League journey, with both Diafra Sakho and James Tomkins in the stands still serving their respective bans.
Worse still for Bilic, Valencia was carried off on a stretcher shortly after opening the scoring in his first competitive appearance of the season, further reducing his striking options.
Despite their negative approach to the tie, it was Astra who almost took the lead as former West Brom midfielder Filipe Teixeira saw his drilled effort whistle inches wide of Adrian's goal.
But it was the Hammers who opened the scoring just moments later as Payet crossed for Valencia to nod home at the back post at the mid-way point of the first half.
The 25-year-old's first game of the season came to a disappointing end as he was forced off injured, with Modibo Maiga on in his place only minutes after Bilic had been forced to shuffle his pack by introducing Reece Burke in place of the limping Joey O'Brien.
Payet was still the main attraction and he delivered a cross that Ogbonna headed towards goal, only to see Silviu Lung make a tremendous finger-tip save.
The Astra goalkeeper was at it again on the stroke of half-time, leaping even further to his left to push away Zarate's curled attempt, but the Argentinian defeated him five minutes after the restart, finishing coolly after a jinking run.
Bilic then saw Collins dismissed, a regular sight for the manager in his early career in the Upton Park dugout, with Giurgiu twice coming close as the West Ham defence readjusted.
The visitors were still pushing and with 20 minutes remaining they gave themselves hope of springing an upset as Boldrin thrashed in a long-range effort off the underside of the crossbar.
The equaliser came in unfortunate fashion as Ogbonna hurled himself at a hopeful cross, only to divert the ball past a despairing dive from Adrian.
More controversy came as Maiga's claims for a last-gasp penalty fell on deaf ears, with Payet booked for his remonstrations and Bilic sent from his technical area for his own complaints - the Croatian also knowing his side have it all to do next week.