West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic’s decision to put out a young, largely inexperienced side for the second leg of their UEFA Europa League third qualifying round tie at Astra Giurgiu backfired when the Romanian side ran out 2-1 winners on Thursday.
The Hammers, who had let slip a two-goal lead and conceded a last-gasp equalizer in the first leg last week, went out 4-3 on aggregate.
It had all started so well as a goal from debutant Manuel Lanzini inside three minutes put them ahead, but two quick goals in three minutes from skipper Constantin Budescu, after 33 and 36 minutes, put the Romanian side in the driving seat.
Bilic defended his decision to rest a host of first-choice players ahead of their English Premier League opener against Arsenal tomorrow.
“It is a good experience for a few of the youngsters, but some of the guys who played tonight showed us they are going to be very useful,” Bilic said. “We have a big season ahead of us which starts on Sunday and we are going to be good in the Premier League. I am very confident about that.”
Borussia Dortmund, who were UEFA Champions League runners-up in 2012-2013, eased into the playoff draw with a 5-0 mauling of Wolfsberger AC of Austria for a 6-0 aggregate victory.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick in 13 second-half minutes.
Southampton were already 3-0 up in their tie against Vitesse of the Netherlands from the first leg and they cruised through 5-0 on aggregate after Graziano Pelle’s low shot after four minutes killed the tie off as a contest and Senegalese striker Sadio Mane added the final flourish a minute from time.
The result was slightly tainted by news that Dutch police made 53 arrests in Arnhem before the game, where opposing fans had apparently been drinking together peacefully until trouble erupted.
Walter Zenga’s UC Sampdoria were also losers against Vojvodina of Serbia, despite winning their second leg 2-0, but their shock 4-0 defeat on home turf last week proved too great a deficit to recover.
Aberdeen were held 1-1 by Kazakh side Kairat and went out 3-2 on aggregate.
Gerard Gohou opened the scoring after 59 minutes for the visitors and although Kenny McLean leveled on the night, the Dons could not find the second goal that would have seen them take the tie into extra-time.
Athletic Bilbao did just enough to reach the playoffs by holding Inter Baku PIK of Azerbaijan 0-0.
Having done the hard part in the home leg last week, they moved into the draw 2-0 on aggregate.
Rubin Kazan of Russia went into their second leg against seasoned European campaigners SK Sturm Graz 3-2 up from the away leg and survived a brief scare when Josip Tadic put the Austrian side ahead on the night, but it was left to captain Oleg Kuzmin to steady the ship five minutes from the end with an equalizer which left it 1-1 to send Kazan through 4-3 on aggregate.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two