|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Joselu blows away Newcastle gloom and adds to the pressure on Slaven Bilic
Louise Taylor at St James' Park
Date Published Saturday 26 August 2017 18.56 BST
“It’s still very early,” said the West Ham manager when asked about the apparent precariousness of his position. “It’s disturbing and I’m worried but I’m not panicking. It was a very difficult afternoon. Newcastle were better in every aspect of the game, they had more power and determination and they were first to second balls.”
In contrast Benítez was smiling broadly for the first time in weeks. Asked if the afternoon had reminded him of why he had come to St James’ Park in the first place, his reply proved telling. “Yes,” he said. “It’s the fans, the city, the stature of the club, when everything is right, you can enjoy it – and today everything was right. The way we won, the performance of the team and the connection between fans and players was, for me, ideal.”
Not that he will stop agitating Ashley. “We have to have new players,” stressed the Spaniard. “Nothing has changed. Hopefully we can do what we want.”
Playing under a bright blue sky, his side started slowly, their initial play proving somewhat less sparkling than the welcome August sunshine. With the excellent Hayden and Merino impressing in central midfield, they were the better side but took time to make their final ball count.
Then, just as the atmosphere among another full house began turning edgy, Bilic’s 18-year-old midfielder Declan Rice lost possession to Ritchie and Merino’s inspired through ball picked out Christian Atsu. The winger squared unselfishly for the hard-working Joselu who, under pressure from two defenders, extended his right boot to give them the lead from close range.
Thanks to that moment of incision on the part of his £5m signing from Stoke, a look of something resembling mild contentment flickered across Benítez’s face.
Newcastle’s first league goal of the season seemed to remove much of the early tension from their play, dictating that passes were no longer snatched or mis-placed. Indeed, by half time they were settling into something approaching a rhythmic passing groove.
Poor Rice looked out of his depth and it came as no surprise when he was replaced by Manuel Lanzini at the interval. Not that this switch had much impact on the balance of power as Newcastle’s continued superiority manifested itself in Joselu – by now heading for cult-hero status among the Gallowgate End – creating a chance for Ayoze Pérez, whose left-foot shot was well saved by Joe Hart.
Shortly afterwards Benítez’s players weathered a pivotal moment. This time, the otherwise barely troubled Rob Elliot was the goalkeeper being stretched to the limit, performing wonders to repel Aaron Cresswell’s ferocious shot before Clark cleared Javier Hernández’s follow up off the line.
Suitably warned, Newcastle upped their tempo and, in a near symmetrical cameo at the other end, Hart saved smartly from Ritchie with Pablo Zabaleta scooping off the line to deny Joselu a tap in.
No sooner had the tiring Spanish centre-forward departed to a standing ovation – to be replaced by Aleksandar Mitrovic – than his side scored again. This time Ritchie danced past Lanzini before crossing sublimely for Clark to beat Hart with a header which went in off a post. Considering Clark, deployed out of position at left-back, had enjoyed an outstanding afternoon in defence there could hardly have been a more appropriate scorer.
By the time Mitrovic connected with Ritchie’s through ball and rounded Hart to score a wildly acclaimed third, West Ham looked to have long since surrendered. “Every club has its ups and downs and it’s my job to be confident,” said Bilic. “But we did not look good today.”
PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Elliot 7; Manquillo 7, Lascelles 7, Clark 8.5, Mbemba 7; Hayden 7.5 (Diame 82), Merino 7.5; Ritchie 8 (Murphy 88), Perez 7, Atsu 7; Joselu 7.5 (Mitrovic 72, 7)
Unused subs: Woodman, Gamez, Aarons, Saivet
Goals: Joselu 36, Clark 73, Mitrovic 85
Booked: Merino 83
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Hart 5; Zabaleta 5.5, Collins 5.5, Ogbonna 5, Cresswell 6; Rice 5 (Lanzini 46, 5.5), Noble 5 (Kouyate 71, 5); Antonio 5.5, Ayew 5 (Sakho 70), Fernandes 5; Hernandez 5.5
Unused subs: Adrian, Fonte, Masuaku, Obiang
Booked: Hernandez 17, Fernandes 66, Sakho 78
Referee: Neil Swarbrick 7
MOM: Ciaran Clark