West Ham lost a two goal lead against Romanian outfit FC Astra Giurgiu in a 2-2 draw in the Europa League third qualifying round at Upton Park.
The Hammers have only faced Romanian opposition on two occasions, losing both times, first against Politehnica Timisoara in 1980 and then against the better known Steaua Bucharest in 1999.
West Ham were doing all the pressing in the opening 15 minutes. Argentine Mauro Zarate had the Hammers best opportunity when his shot from just outside the box flashed wide.
The visitors almost took the lead against the run of play when Portuguese midfielder Filipe Teixeira made the 800 travelling fans jump for joy when he shot into the side netting.
Three minutes after FC Astra’s chance, the hosts took the lead. The £11million summer signing Dimitri Payet floated a delightful ball into the box and Enner Valencia was the highest to jump and nod the ball past Silviu Lung.
The Irons then suffered two injuries in quick succession. First, right back Joey O’Brien was taken off with a suspected hamstring strain, while goal scorer Enner Valencia’s injury looked more serious as he was carried off in a stretcher. They were replaced by Reece Burke and Modibo Maiga respectively.
Despite the forced changes, the two debutants, Payet and Angelo Ogbonna, combined to give Maiga a header that was acrobatically saved by Lung just before half time, the east Londoners having the better 45 minutes.
Just five minutes into the second half, and West Ham doubled their lead thanks to the brilliance of Mauro Zarate. His jinking run left the Black Devils backline troubled and the forward finished well.
Despite the two goals advantage, West Ham never make it easy for themselves. Centre back James Collins’ second booking saw the Hammers down to 10 men for the third time in the Europa League despite warning his fellow players only the day before to be more streetwise.
Payet’s drive was comfortably handled by Lung in the Astra goal after 67 minutes, as the E13 side looked to settle with the two goal advantage they had.
After 71 minutes, FC Astra took a stunning and critical away goal. Fernando Boldrin’s first time striker from 25 yards struck the underneath of the crossbar and left Adrian with no chance.
The visitors were now in full flow and pushing for that equaliser by shooting at every given opportunity, making the fans nervous.
Astra capitalised on the anxiety and put the game back on level terms. Captain Constantin Budescu’s cross saw Ogbonna stretch and slice his attempted clearance into his own net.
Hammers boss Slaven Bilic finished the game being sent to the stands by referee Adrien Jaccottet and the return leg in Romania next Thursday will be a mountain to climb for West Ham.
West Ham: Adrian, O’Brien (Burke, 34), Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Kouyate, Noble ©, Oxford; Payet; Zarate (Jarvis, 75), Valencia (Maiga, 36).
Subs Not Used: Spiegel, Poyet, Nolan, Samuelson.
FC Astra: Lung, Alves, Seto, Enache, Budescu © (Lovin, 90), Morais, Boldrin (Dandea, 86), Gaman, Teixeira, Quieros, De Amorin (Florea, 75).
Subs Not Used: Gavilnas, Oros, Alves, Stan.