July 17, 2015 09:48:07 UK
West Ham defender James Tomkins admitted Maltese side Birkirkara had been a tough nut to crack in their Europa League second qualifying round first leg clash.
Slaven Bilic’s side were frustrated for long spells by the hard-working visitors to Upton Park, with Tomkins scoring the only goal of the match in the last minute of normal time.
Tomkins turned the ball home from close range from Mauro Zarate’s corner to save the Hammers’ blushes and set them up well for next week’s second leg in Malta.
They made it hard for it and it’s going to be hard over there as well.
The 26-year-old defender admitted afterwards: “They frustrated us. They worked really hard and sat back deep. To be honest it was all us possession-wise and we knew the goal would come.
“It was a long time coming, but we got there in the end. They made it hard for it and it’s going to be hard over there as well.
“The gaffer is impressing on us how he wants to play – pass and move, and press and defend. It’s the whole rotating system that we need to get used to and it takes a bit of time.”
West Ham, 67.00 to win the Europa League outright, can be backed at 2.75 to finish in the top half of the Premier League table in 2015/16. They are also 11.00 to draw 1-1 with Arsenal on the opening weekend of the domestic campaign.
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