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Birkirkara v West Ham: Cresswell expecting Londoners to progress

Aaron Cresswell expects West Ham to avoid a UEFA Europa League shock and seal their place in the third qualifying round when they take on Birkirkara in the second leg on Thursday.

The Premier League club needed a late James Tomkins goal to secure a 1-0 victory in the first leg at Upton Park last week.

It proved to be a frustrating evening for the London club in front of an expectant crowd of 33,048 who were no doubt expecting a more resounding win in in Slaven Bilic’s first competitive game in charge.

Maltese Cup winners Birkirkara produced a resolute display to keep West Ham at bay until Tomkins spared the home side’s blushes by coming up with the winner after 90 minutes.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle or Astra will be the opponents in the next round for whoever comes out on top at the Ta’ Qali National Stadium on Thursday and left-back Cresswell is optimistic West Ham will march on.

He told the club’s official website: “We’re confident going over there, but we know it’s not going to be easy at the same time, especially travelling over there in different surroundings.

“You’d imagine they’d have a different approach for the second leg, obviously being 1-0 down.

“They are the home team, but we’ll go there, play the same game and try to get through to the next round.”

It would be a major surprise if Birkirkara continue their European adventure, but teenage forward Kurt Zammit took heart from their first-leg display.

He said: “As we knew before the match, this was going to be a very hard battle. We studied our opponents well and obeyed all the instructions of our coach and doing so, we didn’t let them penetrate easily.

“We did what few expected, we were so close for a historic result. Getting a standing ovation from the 33,000 home supporters at full-time shows how much we deserved a good result.

He added: “All the team was a bit disappointed after a brilliant display in away match, and having the game under control, and then conceding in the last minute.

“It was harsh, but everything can be won or lost, in the next match. If tactically we play as we played away, we will do well for sure.”

Tue 21 Jul, 2015
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