Dan Coker's Match Preview
The second leg of West Ham United’s Europa League third qualifying round against Astra will take place at the Stadionul Marin Anastasovici. The stadium can hold 8,500 spectators and was the home of Dunarea Giurgiu from 1963 until Astra arrived in Giurgiu from Ploiesti in 2012.
The Claret and Blue Army have been allocated 500 tickets in the Blue Stand, which is within the north-west corner of the stadium – the views from the stands are restricted by a large wire fence which will form a cage around the visiting Hammers. Facilities are also basic with toilets provided via temporary installations. The stadium also has no North Stand, so there are no supporters behind one of the goals.
For more information on the stadium, visit the excellent Football Tripper website
Romania is in southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea between Ukraine and Bulgaria. It also borders Moldova, Hungary and Serbia. Romania has 19.9 million inhabitants and its capital, Bucharest, is the sixth largest city in the European Union. The official language is Romanian and Europe’s second largest river which flows through ten countries, the Danube, empties in Romania’s Danube Delta.
For a more in-depth look at Astra as a club and some of their key players, please see last week’s match preview. The match is available to watch on BT Sport Europe in the UK (Sky channel 414, Virgin channel 532) with the programme starting at 6.30pm for a 7pm kick-off.
Blast from the past
Having defeated Castilla in the European Cup Winners’ Cup first round (the second leg played behind closed doors at Upton Park after crowd trouble in the first leg), the Hammers came up against Poli Timisoara of Romania in the second round in the autumn of 1980.
In front of 27,157, Billy Bonds’ looping header from a Ray Stewart free-kick put the Hammers in front and it was 3-0 by half-time as Paul Goddard slammed in a rebound and Stewart smashed home a penalty in typical style. David Cross tapped in the only goal of the second half as the Irons recorded a commanding 4-0 first leg lead.
West Ham United (first leg, 22nd October 1980): Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Jimmy Neighbour, Geoff Pike, Pat Holland, Alan Devonshire, Paul Goddard (Nicky Morgan), David Cross.
A crowd of 25,000 were in attendance for the second leg as the Romanians triumphed 1-0 at home but those four first leg strikes back at the Boleyn were enough to see the Hammers safely through to the third round with an aggregate score of 4-1. The Hammers struggled against the electrifying eventual winners of the competition, Dinamo Tbilisi, in the quarter-finals the following March however, losing 4-1 at home before travelling to the Soviet Union and winning the away leg 1-0 – typical West Ham!
West Ham United (second leg, 5th November 1980): Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart (Paul Brush), Alvin Martin, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Jimmy Neighbour (Trevor Brooking), Pat Holland, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike, Paul Goddard, David Cross.
Bucharest-born Ilie Dumitrescu arrived at Upton Park from Tottenham after a protracted work permit appeal which even saw the MP for Newham North West, the late Tony Banks, get involved as the Hammers finally landed their man in February 1996 for £1.5m. By the following winter, however, Dumitrescu was plying his trade in Mexico, having signed for Club America after a disappointing spell in east London.
Dumitrescu made his first West Ham appearance as a substitute in the 2-0 Premier League home win over Middlesbrough on 9th March 1996. He made two starts that month, in the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle and the 4-2 home win over Manchester City, but was not seen again until the start of the following season in the 2-1 home win over Southampton on 24th August 1996. Harry Redknapp’s ‘West Ham United Nations’ produced a high-octane, thrill-a-minute second half in that match as the likes of Dumitrescu, Florin Raducioiu (a focus in last week’s preview) and Paulo Futre combined with new Hammers manager Slaven Bilic and current coaching assistant Julian Dicks to mount a successful comeback against the Saints, with Dumitrescu winning the match-clinching penalty. The highlights of this match can be seen in the video below. Dumitrescu made 13 appearances for the Hammers, without scoring, before signing for Club America for £1m in late December 1996.
West Ham United were one of a number of clubs the creative midfielder represented in a career that began and ended at Steaua Bucharest and included a spell in Spain (with Sevilla where he was on loan from Tottenham) and Atlante (as well as the aforementioned Club America) in Mexico. He is best known internationally for his role in Romania’s World Cup success at USA ’94, scoring two goals (both against Argentina in the 3-2 second round win, with Dumitrescu creating Romania’s other goal) in five games during the tournament – in total he won 62 caps for his country, scoring 20 goals.
Dumitrescu, now 46, retired in 1998 at the age of 29. He opened an art gallery, had a brief spell as an agent and has since managed clubs in Romania, Cyprus and Greece.
Thursday’s officials are from Italy, with the referee being 37-year-old Paolo Valeri; he was the man in the middle for MTK Budapest’s 0-0 Europa League qualifying first round first leg draw with Vojvodina last month and more recently took charge of Lech Poznan’s 2-0 win at FK Sarajevo in the second qualifying round of the Champions League. Valeri showed six yellow cards in each game. The Roman also refereed last season’s Supercoppa Italiana match between Juventus and Napoli.
Astra are expected to name their strongest available line up as they bid to knock the Hammers out of European football, with star men Silviu Lung Jr, Junior Morais and Constantin Budescu all set to start.
By contrast, Slaven Bilic is likely to name a largely second string line-up with the Premier League away match at Arsenal on Sunday being deemed the priority. James Collins is suspended, while James Tomkins, Aaron Cresswell and Mark Noble are amongst the many first-teamers left at home. Carl Jenkinson will definitely start in Romania as he is ineligible for the trip to his parent club at The Emirates due to Premier League rules. The likes of Darren Randolph, Lewis Page, Diego Poyet, Kevin Nolan, Manuel Lanzini and Modibo Maiga could all be given a chance to impress. Josh Pask, a tall, quick and composed 17-year-old centre-back from Manor Park who joined the Academy at the age of eight and turned down Arsenal and several other Champions League clubs to sign a long-term deal with the Hammers last summer, could make his first start.
Possible Astra XI: Lung; Queiros, Gaman, Alves, Junior Morais; Teixeira, Seto; Enache, Boldrin, William; Budescu.
Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Jenkinson, Pask, Henry, Page; Poyet, Cullen; Maiga, Nolan, Lanzini; Lee.
Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!