David Moyes defended his team selection after West Ham’s unbeaten European record was reduced to ruins in Athens.
The Hammers came a cropper in the shadow of the Acropolis as they crashed 2-1 at Olympiacos, their first loss in continental competition in 18 matches.
Moyes, who led his side to the Europa Conference League title last season, made seven changes for their Europa League Group A clash in the Greek capital with one eye on Sunday’s visit of Everton.
But his tinkering backfired as a soft goal from Olympiacos captain Kostas Fortounis and an own goal from stand-in Hammers skipper Angelo Ogbonna brought their undefeated run to a halt despite Lucas Paqueta’s late volley.
“Look, we changed a lot of players tonight, we’ve got the Premier League coming up and we’ve got a League Cup game next week and we’d won the first two games in the group, which gave us leeway to make changes tonight,” Moyes told whufc.com.
“But maybe I have to recognise that while we didn’t win the Conference League games easily, as they were all tough games, coming to Olympiacos after winning away in Freiburg – which was a good result – this wasn’t a good result and wasn’t a good performance.
“In our heads we certainly had a bigger picture in our heads and that was going into Sunday.
“I don’t think anybody could say the team we started with wasn’t a good team and wasn’t a team capable of winning or performing.
“Many of them have been very good players for us over the years and still are.”
The local ‘ultras’ welcomed West Ham on to the pitch with a huge banner reading “tonight you dine in hell”, and the Hammers’ first-half display was certainly hard to stomach.
The hosts took the lead in the 34th minute when Fortounis launched an old-fashioned toe poke from the edge of the box which flew past the flat-footed Alphonse Areola in the West Ham goal.
On the stroke of half-time the Hammers found themselves two behind when Ogbonna suffered his own personal Greek tragedy.
The Italian veteran stuck out a foot to block a cross from Brazilian full-back Rodinei, only to help it past Areola into his own net.
Moyes sent on Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio before the hour mark but the Brazilian’s strike, albeit spectacular, was all West Ham had to show for a late flurry.
Fortounis admitted his goal was a shade fortuitous. He told reporters: “To be honest, it all seems like a haze.
“I turned and ran towards goal, the ball was right in front of me and I couldn’t do anything else. It was literally a strike with the tip of my toe.”