Winger Gokhan Tore, making his first start, was impressive with set-pieces, crossing for Sapunaru’s handball, a Reece Burke header which was well saved and an Antonio header which was cleared off the line.
Burke was one of two teenagers starting at the back, along with Reece Oxford, both of whom looked solid on a slow, dry pitch.
But Astra’s late equaliser means Bilic will have to field a stronger side next week if he wants a European run this season.
“We only wanted to rest two or three players – the rest were out because they couldn’t play,” he told BT Sport.
“We wanted to put out a strong team. Next week will be the strongest team available.”
Manager reaction – ‘It is a good result’
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic: “It is a shame, but it is a good result. A couple of minutes before the goal we had a good counter with Marcus Browne but unfortunately we missed the target. Instead of 2-0, and probably killing the game, they get a corner and score.
“We hope we will win the second leg but this was a mixed side with seniors and youngsters. It is a good result. We played with some young kids and it was a great experience for them.”