West Ham player ratings against Birkirkara: Poyet shows poise as Nolan fades in the heat

Kevin Nolan

Here's our player ratings for West Ham United after they narrowly made it past Maltese minnows Birkirkara on penalties in the Europa League.

West Ham were the first Premier League side to be back in competitive action after qualifying for Europe through the FIFA Fair Play rankings.

Ironically it was ill-discipline that nearly cost them dear in the end, the dismissal in the first round of top scorer Diafra Sakho robbing them of a goal threat before James Tomkins' sending off on the night as the Hammers slumped to a 1-0 defeat to draw the game 1-1 on aggregate.

Slaven Bilic's side were nearly made to pay the price for their slender 1-0 win against Birkirkara FC at the Boleyn Ground last week teeing them up for a potentially tricky their trip to Malta for tonight's reverse fixture.

Somehow they produced an even worse performance but managed to avoid an embarrassing early exit from the competition by putting away all their penalties to win the shootout 5-4.

There is no hiding it was a poor performance. Even the club's official Twitter account was too embarrassed to hold a Man of the Match vote.

But all that matters is they are through and will now face Romanian side FC Astra in the third qualifying round. So how did the players fare in the intense Maltese heat tonight?

Adrian – 7

Steady Adrian didn't put a foot wrong and couldn't do anything about Birkirkara's goal. He was constantly shouting encouragement to his teammates throughout and always looking to start quick counter attacks everytime he had the ball in his hands. Produced his usual antics to try and unsettle the opposition during the penalty shootout and it worked as Birkirkara's Serbian, but unlike against Everton in the FA Cup last season, he wasn't needed to take one himself.

O'Brien – 6

Produced a few good blocks early on and stayed the course for the full 120 minutes. Didn't get past Amalfitano enough first half to help support the attack and was occasionally caught out in behind by Miccoli's clever runs. A steady showing.

Collins – 5

Looked troubled for much of the match which is unusual as he is an experienced international player and was one of West Ham's key performers last season. Was caught out for pace which led to Birkirkara's goal and may be feeling the pressure of new competition under Bilic with the likes of Angelo Ogbonna having arrived from Juventus.

Tomkins – 3

The hero from the first leg but so nearly the villain tonight. Was left for dead in the build-up to Birkirkara's goal and allowed himself to get easily embroiled in petty altercations with the opposition despite a clear warning from Bilic for his players to keep their hands pre-match. Sending off was harsh but he should not have allowed himself to get involved and react the way he did. Almost cost his side dear.

Cresswell – 7

Fit as a fiddle went about his work with his usual composure. Couldn't attack as much as he usually does following Tomkins' sending off but he was a rare bright spark in an otherwise disappointing display from the Hammers.

Noble – 6.5

Was awful last week but much better this and despite not having a great game was always wanting the ball and trying to control the match when Nolan went off. Showed great composure to set the tempo for West Ham's penalty shootout clean sweep but will need to play better if he is to keep his place in the side when the squad is fully fit and firing.

Nolan – 3

A dismal performance from Nolan which will only add to the calls to not only hand the captaincy to someone else but to sell him on. Slow, pedestrian and had no impact on the game apart from constantly giving the ball away. Not the kind of performance that will persuade Bilic he still has a future at the club. Has been a great servant but looks like his time is up. Substituted after 58 minutes.

Kouyate – 8 Man of the match

It was the Senegal star's first game of the season so he wasn't charging box to box like he usually does but was West Ham's best player on the night and seamlessly slipped into defence when Tomkins was sent off. Calm, composed and rarely gave the ball away, Kouyate showed Bilic he will be one of his key players this season.

Jarvis – 6

Wasn't great but stuck to the task, kept running, kept working the line and trying to make things happen. You would want to see him terrorising opposition of Birkirkara's level, though, and it just doesn't look like it is going to happen for Jarvis at West Ham. Subbed in the last minute of 120 for Samuelsen.

Amalfitano – 4

Started with purpose and tried to attack the hosts' left-back at pace. But after a few tough tackles he quickly lost interest and stopped showing for the ball in what was another very poor performance from the Frenchman who was substituted for Maiga on 58 minutes.

Zarate – 5

Again held on to the ball far too much and did not work hard enough off it to make space or put the Birkirkara defence under pressure. I don't think Zarate will ever be that kind of player but it is what West Ham fans demand of their strikers above anything else. Had very little impact on the game until the hosts had a man sent off late on. Easy to see why Sam Allardyce did not count on him last season.


Poyet – 8

Poyet did really well after replacing Nolan. Still only young, he got on the ball, kept the game ticking and was always looking for a probing pass even if Zarate and Maiga failed time and again to provide an option for him. Showed great composure to calmly roll in the winning penalty too. Just shaded by Kouyate for Man of the Match.

Maiga – 4

Once again given a chance and once again disappoints. Maiga is one of a handful of players whose time at West Ham is long over. Does not make runs for his teammates, can't hold the ball up and too easily brushed off it. Had a goal chalked off for offside. And that was it during his hour on the pitch.

Samuelsen – N/A

Played for one minute and didn't need to take a penalty.

SUBS NOT USED: Randolph, Hendrie, Pike.

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