Bilic ‘not sorry’ about EL exit

David Villa announces retirement at Vissel Kobe

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has stood by his decision to rest key players for their Europa League qualifier defeat to Astra Giurgiu on Thursday.

The Romanians won the second leg 2-1 thanks to a brace from Constantin Budescu, giving them a 4-3 aggregate win and sending the Hammers out of the competition.

The Croatian manager said before the game that it was "always the plan" to prioritise Sunday's Premier League opener against Arsenal and travel to Romania with Carl Jenkinson and Kevin Nolan as their only regular starters, and he has defended that decision.

"You can't be sorry," he said. "You can't be like that. I said it was tempting but when you make a decision you stand by it and you know the consequences.

"I said (on Wednesday) that we had more chances to win with some of the players who stayed in London but I think the boys not only did everything, the effort was there, the quality was there as well – especially until they scored two goals.

"I wanted to go through. I believed that we could go through with this team. I'm very proud of the effort they put in and disappointed with the result."

Although the European defeat is not a good note on which to start their season, Bilic is still hoping for the best against the Gunners at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

"When the Premier League starts, we have a game and of course we are looking to get a positive result."