NK Domzale 2-1 West Ham: Matic Crnic scores twice to stun Hammers in Europa League first leg
By Tom Bennett
Last Updated: 29/07/16 7:33am
West Ham were beaten 2-1 by NK Domzale as Matic Crnic scored twice to give the Slovenian underdogs a narrow advantage after the first leg of the Europa League third qualifying round tie.
Domzale took the lead against the run of play after 11 minutes at Stadion Stozice in Ljubljana on Thursday night when a shot cannoned off the arm of debutant Havard Nordtveit and the referee pointed to the spot.
It was a contentious decision, with the centre-back arguing that he was unable to get out of the way, but the decision had been made and Crnic calmly dispatched the penalty beyond Adrian.
West Ham crashed out of the Europa League at this same stage last season, but there were no signs of nerves after going behind, and it took the Hammers just seven minutes to draw level. A spot of head tennis inside the area resulted in Domzale goalkeeper Axel Maraval clearing out Winston Reid with a punch to the head, prompting the second penalty of the game - and a far less contentious one.
The ever-reliable Mark Noble sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to make it 1-1, but West Ham struggled to create any further clear-cut chances in a rusty first-half performance.
Manager Slaven Bilic, banned from the touchline as he served the second of a two-game suspension, would have been hoping for better from his team after the break.
But it was Domzale who stepped up a level and the hosts secured the win when the excellent Crnic curled a finish into the far corner from the edge of the box after getting in behind the out-of-position Antonio in the 49th minute.
West Ham started the game brightly, with Sofiane Feghouli impressing on the right wing on his competitive debut for the club after a move from Valencia.
But the visitors also posed a constant threat throughout on the counter-attack, with the impressive Crnic revelling in the opportunity to play in front of a bigger crowd following the decision to move the game from Domzale's 3,000-capacity home ground.
Feghouli created most of the best opportunities for the Hammers in the first half with a string of dangerous deliveries from out on the right, but the closest the Premier League club came to scoring a second goal of the night was a snap shot from Pedro Obiang when a clearance fell to him on the edge of the box.
Domzale, in contrast, should have gone in ahead at half-time, missing a great opportunity when Marko Alvir headed wide and threatening again with a curling effort from Crnic that flew narrowly wide of Adrian's far post.
And there were further chances for the hosts after the break, with a stunning Adrian double-save late on denying substitute Amedev Vetrih.
The result leaves West Ham needing a win when they welcome Domzale to east London next Thursday for the first competitive club game at the soon-to-be-renamed Olympic Stadium.
Manager Bilic will return from his touchline ban but will expect more from a group of players who looked off the pace and rusty with two weeks to go before the start of the Premier League season.