West Ham manager Slaven Bilic claimed James Collins’ sending off against Astra was “harsh” but was also unimpressed by how his side dealt with being reduced to 10 players.
Collins received two yellow cards in the space of four minutes for tackles on Astra’s captain Constantin Budescu at Upton Park on Thursday, with Bilic arguing the second caution was not warranted.
But Bilic was also clearly disappointed in his team’s continued inability to finish off games, with Astra fighting back to draw 2-2 in the UEFA Europa League third-qualifying-round first leg, while West Ham’s record of three red cards in five European matches must also be cause for concern.
“We definitely played well in the first hour, but the game lasts 90 minutes and we had to react better to going down to 10 men,” Bilic said.
“The problem was also that we could not change a lot because we had already done two substitutions so we had to wait.
“At 2-2 it’s a bad result for us and we’re not happy. Add the injuries to Joey [O’Brien] and Enner [Valencia] and the frustration is bigger.”
Asked about Valencia’s knee, which he appeared to injure as he tackled an opponent, Bilic said: “It doesn’t look good.”
Having needed penalties to overcome Malta’s Birkirkara last round, West Ham looked set for a much easier Europa League tie early in the second half against Astra.
Valencia had given the hosts the lead in the 23rd minute before Mauro Zarate doubled their advantage five minutes after the break.
But with Valencia and O’Brien limping off within two minutes of each other before the interval, Bilic had little room for manoeuvre when Collins saw red.
“It was a very frustrating evening because we played well until the moment we had a player sent off. We were dominating the game,” Bilic said.
“We had chances to score the third goal. It was a professional foul from Collins and I can’t blame him. The second yellow was harsh.”
Astra’s Rick Boldrin made it 2-1 with 19 minutes remaining with a long-range effort before Angelo Ogbonna’s 82nd-minute own goal secured a draw for the Romanian visitors.
“They scored one great goal and an own-goal, but it was a different game after they scored the first one,” Bilic said.
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