Bilic: West Ham ‘close’ to signing striker after Europa League exit

Date published: Friday 26th August 2016 8:02 - Mark Scott

Simone Zaza: Moves to West Ham

West Ham are set to announce the arrival of Simone Zaza from Juventus, but Slaven Bilic is “angry and confused” by their Europa League exit.

For the second year running the Romanian side ended West Ham’s Europa League adventure in the qualifying rounds, and to rub salt in the wounds inflicted their first defeat at the London Stadium.

A goal from 35-year-old former Barnsley and West Brom midfielder Filipe Teixeira secured a 1-0 victory for the team currently 11th in Romanian Liga 1.

It meant a 2-1 aggregate defeat and no place in the group stage for Slaven Bilic’s side, who would not even have had to play this play-off match had they beaten Stoke on the final day of last season.

Italy striker Zaza is close to joining from Juventus, with boss Bilic revealing: “I don’t know the details, but we were in talks and it was quite close. I would love it to happen.”

But in the meantime Bilic was left frustrated and angry as the Hammers exited the competition before it had even really begun.

Bilic said: “We said before that this was one of most important games for us this year.

“It was like a final that we had to win to go through, so the disappointment is massive.

“I’m angry and frustrated, but I’m also disappointed because we really wanted to go through. That’s why we tried so hard last season, to get this opportunity.

“We wanted to play in Europe, we came so close and we wanted to have that experience as a club, a club that is not often in Europe.”

A desperate evening had begun on a high note with West Ham announcing the signing of young Swiss midfielder Edimilson Fernandes from FC Sion, but once again it was evident a striker is what
they desperately need.

Instead it was left to rookie Argentinian forward Jonathan Calleri, then substitute Ashley Fletcher and, by the end, centre-half James Collins to try, and ultimately fail, to break down the visitors.

They paid the price for an uninspiring first half on the stroke of half-time when Sam Byram’s cross-field ball gave Reece Burke too much to do and left both Hammers full-backs hopelessly out of position.

Teixeira was able to stride into the penalty area and slide the ball past Hammers goalkeeper Darren Randolph.

Astra keeper Silviu Lung was kept busy, but by no means under siege, as West Ham huffed and puffed to no avail after the break.

Jubilant Astra coach Marius Sumudica, who only returned from a UEFA ban for betting on matches in last week’s home leg, beamed: “It was our evening.

“We were also very lucky, but in football you need a bit of luck to win and luck is on the side of the strong ones.

“This is one of the three best days in my life, pretty much the same level as when my children were born – because I knew they were mine.”

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