And they are the first out as suspensions and injuries eventually took their toll, forcing Slaven Bilic to field a skeleton side full of young promise but little experience.
But two goals in five minutes towards the end of the first half from Astra Giurgiu's star man Constantin Budescu turned the game and the tie on its head.
Ultimately, though, it was the last half an hour of the first leg at Upton Park which cost Slaven Bilic's side dear in this third qualifying round tie.
The Hammers were 2-0 up and cruising before James Collins was sent off for two quick bookings. They lost the plot after that and conceded two crucial away goals which meant they had to win tonight.
Being in the Europa League was desirable for some fans who wanted to see some big European teams play under the lights for the last time at the Boleyn Ground before next summer's move to the Olympic Stadium.
But many felt it was a distraction Bilic and his players did not need in such an important year for the club.
Those fans have got their wish tonight but how did West Ham's players get on?
Randolph – 4
Randolph's shaky start to life at West Ham continued with a very poor display. Lucky not to have conceded after letting a free-kick from all of 40 yards sail over his head onto the upright on 15 minutes. Lucky again that it did not rebound off him into his own goal. Did not command his box in any way and could have done better, although unsighted, for Astra's second.
Knoyle – 7
Very impressive on his competitive debut and looks a real prospect. Got up and down the right hand side and was not afraid to take people on. Looks very much in the Keiron Gibbs mould. End product was the only thing that let him down.
Henry – 5
First competitive game for West Ham was not one to remember for the highly-rated Canadian centre back. At fault for Astra's first goal backed off far too much allowing Budescu space to shoot. Booked and looked shaky although improved as the game went on. In fairness he has been out injured for six months with a torn hamstring.
Jenkinson – 6
Playing as a centre back instead of his usual right back role. Did ok but was caught out of position on occasion and Hammers missed his pace and help in attack which he provides in his natural position.
Page – 7
Got up and down the left and was one of the bright sparks for the Hammers. Defended well and got stuck in. Perhaps could do with a loan move to cut his professional teeth. Subbed in 90th minute injured.
Poyet – 5
Very average in the middle of the park and was at fault for Astra's second goal allowing his man to waltz into the box to square the ball to Budescu for a tap-in. Will have to do better to establish himself as a first team player at West Ham.
Nolan – 4
Started ok and almost scored in the build-up to Lanzini's third minute goal. But Nolan looks like a man on his way out of the club with another pedestrian performance where he failed to do anything of note. For a man with 99 career goals and the team's skipper you would expect much more.
Cullen – 5
Youngster was brave and looked for the ball but gave possession away far too cheaply. Another who will need to go out on loan if he is to prove himself.
Lanzini – 7
West Ham's best player first half on his competitive debut which he marked with a lovely goal. But his lack of fitness caught up with him in the second half as he faded badly and was virtually anonymous second half apart from a few wasted scooped passes to try and pull off the spectacular.
Maiga – 3
Why Maiga is still featuring in West Ham line-ups is beyond anyone. Another truly awful display, summed up by the fact his only chance came in he 88th minute where he showed great control before blazing over from five yards out and an acute angle. No future at the club, but who in their right mind would take him?
Lee – 6
Gets a six just for his workrate. Always a willing runner and tried to make the Astra defence work but had very little of the kind of service he thrives on and little or not support from Maiga who's job it was to hold up the ball and bring his partner into play. Subbed late on.
Brown – 6
Late sub for Lee who hard run himself into the ground for no reward. Tried to put himself about but lost the ball a few times and did not make an impact as he did not see enough of the play.
Pike – 6
On in the 90th minute didn't touch the ball.