But after another red card – their third in three qualifying rounds – it is ill-discipline which looks like it will cost the club dear after James Collins became the latest West Ham player to be sent off.
The Hammers were cruising at 2-0 but conceded two away goals in the second half following Collin's dismissal for two bookings withing a few minutes of eachother on 59 minutes.
It means the Hammers face a tough second leg in Romania where they will have to win the game for the right to play in the final qualifier ahead of the competition proper.
So how did Slaven Bilic's men fare against their toughest opposition so far in this season's competition?
Adrian – 6
Astra's opener was a quality strike but it was from 25 yards out and the Spaniard will feel he might have done better. Other than that not much he could have done to prevent the disappointing scoreline.
O'Brien – 6
With first choice right back Carl Jenkinson still unavailable, O'Brien continued as a Europa League ever-present by starting against Astra. He was booked for the first foul of the game and looked his usual reliable self for most of the first half but felt his hamstring on 37 minutes and was substituted for youngster Reece Burke.
Collins – 4
One of West Ham's most experienced players and had looked comfortable alongside new defensive partner Ogbonna but made a rash challenge early in the second half to earn himself a needless booking. A few minutes later was shown his second yellow on the hour for bringing down Budescu to continue West Ham's record of having a man sent off in every round so far. Played well but as an experienced international should have been more careful as he left his teammates up against it for the last half an hour. They conceded two goals in his absence and he will now miss the second leg in Romania next week where his side will be short of defensive options with Tomkins also suspended.
Ogbonna – 7
New signing from Juventus looks another quality player who can have an impact in both boxes. He marshalled the Hammers defence well on his competitive debut and was unlucky not to score up the other end. Had to dig in to when James Collins got himself sent off for two bookings and then unluckily conceded an own goal for the Astra equaliser. Nevertheless he will play a key role for West Ham this season.
Cresswell – 6
Worked hard and got up and down as much as he could but couldn't attack as much as he usually does following Collins' sending off. Always gives 100% but wasn't enough to help keep Astra out at the back.
Noble – 6
Noble was always looking for the ball and wanting to push his side on as captain for the night. But he simply must start having a bigger influence on matches if he wants to keep his place in Slaven Bilic's side.
Oxford – 7
West Ham's youngest ever player at 16 years old, but tonight could be the game that made him a man as he grew in stature throughout as Astra pushed forwards following Collins' sending off. Stood up well in the face of some stern second half pressure and showed just why the club rate him so highly. Europa League is the perfect stage for his development.
Kouyate – 6
Senegal star is still finding his feet and fitness having only played one full game so far in pre-season. Was West Ham's man of the match in the last round against Birkirkara, but not as influential this time around when the Hammers needed to shore things up in the face of intense second half pressure.
Valencia – 7
Showed his unlikely aerial prowess again as he rose highest to plant a fantastic header into the back of the net to give West Ham a 1-0 lead in the first half. Looked a threat during his time on the park and was linking well with Payet and Zarate but picked up what looked a serious injury on 37 minutes and was withdrawn for Modibo Maiga. His loss will be a major concern for boss Slaven Bilic with Andy Carroll out until at least September.
Payet – 8 Star man
Showed just why Bilic made him his number one target by dictating the play and always looking to make things happen on his competitive debut. Set up the opener for Valencia with an exquisite cross to the far post and was constantly probing in the first half. His influence faded in the second half but it is clear the Hammers have got themselves a real player here. Will be needed for the big match away in Romania next Thursday.
Zarate – 8
Much, much better from the Argentina-born Chilean international. Has frustrated Hammers fans so far this pre-season by holding on to the ball far too much in previous rounds as the east Londonders failed to fire up front. Linked well with Valenica and Payet and looked dangerous all night before getting a great individual goal on 51 minutes to make it 2-0, dropping his shoulder to wriggle out of a challenge on the edge of the box, and after poking past the last man, kept his cool to pass the ball into the bottom left hand corner. It was his first goal at the Boleyn Ground. Subbed late on for Jarvis.
Burke – 7
Looked steady enough on his return to the side and with Tomkins, Collins, Reid and O'Brien suspended or injured may be thrust into the action next week.
Maiga – 6
Came on and put himself about a bit more than usual, had a couple of efforts but ask any West Ham fan and they will tell you the same thing, Modibo Maiga has no future at the club.
Jarvis – 6
Came on as a late sub for Zarate but didn't really get involved in the game.