90 minute goal saves West Ham’s blush.

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West Ham United earned a narrow victory in the Europa League second qualifying round first leg lead over Malta’s Birkirkara, thanks to a James Tomkins goal in the 90th minute.

The Hammers dominated possession but failed to make it count until defender Tomkins chested home from a corner.

Modibo Maiga hit a post for the hosts, while skipper Kevin Nolan went close with an acrobatic volley.

West Ham will have to perform better in Malta next Thursday if they are to make sure of a place in the third qualifying round.

With manager Slaven Bilic in the Boleyn Ground dugout for the first time since his summer appointment, the Hammers were expected to make short work of the Maltese Cup winners.

However, despite naming a strong starting XI which included the likes of captain Kevin Nolan, goalkeeper Adrian, defenders Winston Reid and Tomkins, with Morgan Amalfitano, Mauro Zarate and Modibo Maiga in attack the Hammers were left frustrated as the visitors dug in.

But, just when it looked like the tie would end goalless, Tomkins bundled the ball into the net following a corner, to give the Premier League side the slenderest of leads to protect in next week’s away leg.

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