A late James Tomkins goal was enough to settle West Ham's second qualifying round match in the Europa League against FC Birkirkara of Malta.
With gusts of wind hitting the Boleyn ground, West Ham's emphasis was on keeping possession in manager Slaven Bilic’s first game in the dugout at home.
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It was a frustrating night for the Irons.
Former Marseille and West Brom midfielder Morgan Amalfitano went close after 12 minutes, curling his guided shot towards the right hand side of the goal over the bar.
Forgotten man, Modibo Maiga, who spent last season on loan at French outfit FC Metz, should have tucked away his header from six yards out, but was prevented by Birkirkara’s former Sheffield United keeper Justin Haber.
Left back Aaron Cresswell’s direct free kick went just wide from 25 yards out, as the Hammers dominated proceedings in the opening 25 minutes.
Mali striker Maiga was a lick of paint away from putting the Hammers in front again when his drive clipped the outside of the right hand post.
And Argentine Mauro Zarate's outswinging free kick forced Haber into a good parry as the hosts edged closer to breaking the deadlock.
Both Matt Jarvis and Zarate, early in the second 45 minutes, had efforts blocked by Haber as West Ham failed to find the net.
And as Bilic’s men struggled to come up with something to beat Haber, Birkirkara almost grabbed the lead themselves as midfielder Liliu flashed his shot just wide from 12 yards out after 57 minutes.
As time ticked away, the West Ham players and fans were getting even more frustrated as finding that all important goal was becoming harder for the hosts, despite the vast amount of possession they enjoyed.
Finally though, Zarate’s whipped corner saw defender James Tomkins bundle the ball home from two yards out to give his team the lead, which they were able to close out for the win.
But the result only gives the Irons a slender advantage as they prepare to travel to Malta for the second leg on Thursday, July 23.
West Ham: Adrian, O'Brien, Reid, Tomkins. Cresswell; Noble, Nolan (c) (Poyet, 78), Jarvis, Amalfitano (Samuelsen, 59); Zarate, Maiga (Lee, 69).
Subs Not Used: Randolph, Collins, Hendrie, Pike .
Birkirkara: Haber, Camenzuli, Mazzetti, Vukanac, Zerafa, R.Muscat, Z.Muscat, Fenech (c) (Zammit, 49), Miccoli, Liliu (Plut, 64), Murga (Agius, 45).
Subs Not Used: Alkpan, Sciberras, Zerafa, Aquilina.