Belfast Telegraph

Slaven Bilic hopes Manchester United win FA Cup to send West Ham into Europe

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic expressed his frustration after his side's 2-1 loss at Stoke left him having to cheer on Manchester United.

Victory at the Britannia Stadium in what was their final Barclays Premier League game of the season would have ensured the Hammers European football for next term, and they took the lead through Michail Antonio in the 23rd minute.

But they failed to convert a host of chances thereafter, while their hosts came from behind thanks to Giannelli Imbula's 55th-minute strike and a header two minutes from time from substitute Mame Diouf.

It means seventh-placed West Ham will only qualify for the Europa League if Manchester United beat Crystal Palace in next Saturday's FA Cup final.

And Bilic said after the Stoke match: "Of course we want them to win, so for those 90 minutes that would probably be right - we will be Manchester United fans, hoping they win the game, because I think we really deserve to be in Europe, given the way we have played this season."

West Ham had lost only one of their last 12 league games prior to this one, winning six of them.

And they would have been firm favourites to register another victory if Diafra Sakho had not seen his shot well saved by Shay Given just prior to Imbula's goal.

Glenn Whelan, meanwhile, made the last in a quick succession of goal-line clearances by Stoke at 1-1 when he hooked away a ball that came off Cheikhou Kouyate, with mere inches in it.

Reflecting on the defeat, Bilic said: "I'm gutted, given the way we played.

"I would like to congratulate Stoke because they didn't steal it from us - they just took their chances.

"One part of me is really disappointed, gutted, angry - but the other half is like I can't be unhappy after these games because the way we played, it was like we were different class, after we scored the goal until the end of the first half.

"We should have been more than one up. We said at half-time that if it was basketball we would have been 15 or 20 points clear, but it is football.

"At the start of the second half we had that massive chance from Sakho. Given made a great save but we expect to score there.

"Then they equalised and after that, there were three or four chances and you are really expecting the ball is in, but it just didn't want to go in.

"Then, like so many times in football, you concede a goal. So it is just one of those games that makes you really frustrated."

For Stoke, it was a first win in seven matches and took them to a ninth-placed finish for the third successive season under boss Mark Hughes.

When it was put to him that that was a good achievement, Hughes said: "It is a bit more than a good achievement, surely - cut us a bit of slack!

"No, it is fantastic. I think of all the seasons we have managed ninth, this is the most satisfying, because it has been more difficult this year.

"You want to finish on the right note and performance-wise we wanted to hit a good level, and certainly second half I thought we did that, so everybody is going away on summer holidays or to the European Championship in good heart.

"Then we'll come back together in July, go again and try to do better."

In terms of players looking to feature at Euro 2016, West Ham's France international Dimitri Payet missed the game with a foot injury.

Bilic said of Payet: "It is not serious, but it was serious for this game.

"It happened in the beginning of the game against Manchester United (on Tuesday) and he tried to put his boot on yesterday and it was really painful.

"It is a dodgy spot and it was impossible for him to play today."

Hammers striker Andy Carroll, who has been hoping to make the England squad that will be announced on Monday, came off midway through the second half although it was unclear whether he had sustained an injury or not.


From Belfast Telegraph