West Ham lose first leg in Slovenia

 Posted by at 6:19 AM
Jul 292016
Mark Noble’s penalty gave West Ham an away goal that could be crucial in next week’s second leg

West Ham endured a tricky start to their season as they lost 2-1 to NK Domzale in a Europa League qualifier in Slovenia.

The Hammers are well placed to progress in next week’s second leg – the first competitive game at the Olympic Stadium – thanks to Mark Noble’s penalty.

But for large periods, Slaven Bilic’s side were on the back foot.

Matic Crnic put the hosts ahead from the spot and then grabbed the winner with a fine solo goal.

Relive West Ham’s defeat in Slovenia

Next week promises to be a sell-out encounter, with more than 50,000 inside the Hammers’ new home.

Noble’s penalty has given West Ham an away goal that means a 1-0 win in the home leg will take them through.

But in front of barely 3,000 in Ljubjana – the game was moved from the home of Domzale – the Premier League side faded badly after a bright first-half showing and looked well short of match sharpness.

Crnic and Noble exchanged early penalties – with Domzale’s awarded for a Havard Nordtveit handball and West Ham’s for a foul on Winston Reid.

The home side then went ahead at the start of the second half when Crnic cut in from the left and curled home.

West Ham goalkeeper Adrian had to be at his best to prevent Amedej Vetrih from adding a third with a spectacular late save.

The Hammers were without last season’s standout player Dimitri Payet, and while new signing Sofiane Feghouli enjoyed an impressive start, he barely had a touch in the second half.

And at the back Bilic looks to have problems. Michail Antonio was at fault for Crnic’s second goal and looked fragile all night, while former Leeds full-back Sam Byram looked makeshift on the left.

First-choice Aaron Cresswell is set to be out for four months with a knee injury and Bilic may need to enter the transfer market before the start of the season.

West Ham assistant manager Nikola Jurcevic:

“Our performance was not so good, and maybe I can say it was average in the first half and it was 1-1. We were not satisfied with this result and in the second half we played badly.

“I am sure we will be better next week. It will be very difficult but I’m optimistic and I hope it will be a different game in the Olympic Stadium.

“We must be better. We must win this game in our stadium because we also have big ambitions in Europe, but it will be very tough because Domzale showed they are a good team.”

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Jul 292016
Jonny Hayes (right) levelled for Aberdeen with only a few minutes remaining

Aberdeen struck late in Europe again as Jonny Hayes equalised against Maribor in the Europa League third qualifying round first leg.

A drilled shot by experienced Slovenia international Milivoje Novakovic threatened to leave Aberdeen with an uphill task in next week’s return leg.

But Republic of Ireland international Hayes finally converted one of the many chances the Dons created at Pittodrie.

However, Aberdeen will need to score in Slovenia to stay in the tie.

All seven of the Dons’ goals in the previous two rounds had come in the last 22 minutes of matches, with three in stoppage time.

And though there was a constant threat from Derek McInnes’ side, full of pace, movement and intensity, they could not find a way past goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic until the closing stages.

Novakovic (far right) gave Maribor the advantage of an away goal

The aim from McInnes was to disrupt a team who like to slot into a steady defensive pattern in an effort to get an early goal.

Top scorer Adam Rooney fastened on to a mistake by Dare Vrsic, but the striker’s shot was indecisive and Handanovic saved at the second attempt.

The visitors then squandered the best early chance after a great run and cross on the counter-attack by right-back Denis Sme, Marwan Kabha sending his shot from 12 yards hopelessly over the bar when he should have scored.

Handanovic made a brave block at Rooney’s feet and then saw the same player miss an excellent Andrew Considine delivery by inches as crosses kept flashing across his penalty box.

The keeper again excelled by blocking Jayden Stockley’s header at point-blank range just before the break.

Vrsic caused a few moments of anxiety for Aberdeen when stopper Joe Lewis was forced to make a sharp dive to his left to prevent the former Austria Vienna player netting.

Rooney’s effort was disallowed for offside

Rooney did have the ball in the net after some great build-up play by Niall McGinn but the striker had strayed offside. Then, with time running out, Novakovic struck.

It was a wonderful finish from the 37-year-old as he brushed off the challenge of Ash Taylor before arrowing a shot beyond the despairing dive of Lewis.

But Taylor redeemed himself with a determined contribution to set up Hayes’ sidefoot finish minutes later.

That gives Aberdeen greater hope of reaching the play-off round, but Maribor know they will progress if they avoid losing a goal next week.

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Ben Chilwell made three appearances for Leicester City last season, all in cup competitions

Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell has signed a new five-year deal.

The 19-year-old is yet to make his league debut for the Premier League champions but was linked with a move to Liverpool this summer.