No festive cheer as West Ham crash to home defeat against struggling Newcastle
PUBLISHED: 17:10 23 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:10 23 December 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
The Hammers miss a penalty on their way to home loss by Rafa Benitez’s men
West Ham United 2 Newcastle United 3
There was little festive cheer at London Stadium, where the Magpies leap-frogged above the Hammers in the Premier League table to end David Moyes’ three-match unbeaten run and send the West Ham boss well and truly back to the drawing board.
Marco Arnautović got the Hammers off to a dream start with his third goal in four matches to give Moyes boys a fourth-minute lead, before the Magpies’ recalled forgotten man – Henri Saivet – made up for his dreadful error that had gifted the East Enders that opener by equalising with a 10th-minute free-kick.
Ex-Hammer Mohamed Diamé put Newcastle ahead early in the second half and, after André Ayew saw his weak penalty saved, Christian Atsu then extended the visitors’ lead.
And although Ayew did at least compensate for his wastefulness by bundling home with 20 minutes remaining, in the final reckoning, West Ham just could not salvage a precious point.
Ironically, both sides had lost to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last time out and, following Tuesday’s timid Carabao Cup quarter-final exit, the 15th-placed Hammers - kicking off three rungs and two points above Newcastle - made five changes.
Arnautović, Adrián, Pablo Zabaleta, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Michail Antonio all returned as Joe Hart, James Collins, Domingos Quina, Javier Hernández and Declan Rice were each relegated to the bench.
And an all-action Arnautović took just four minutes to justify that recall, when he intercepted Saivet’s sloppy, suicidal square-pass on the halfway line before steam-rollering his way to the edge of the Newcastle box, where he held off the retreating Ciaran Clark ahead of rifling a low 15-yarder through Rob Elliot’s clutches to give West Ham the lead.
Last Saturday’s Premier League defeat to the Gunners had been the Magpies fourth on the spin and Rafa Benitez – quickly arriving back in the capital with just one point from his previous nine outings – also made five changes as surprise package Saivet, Diamé, Clark, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle earned recalls in place of Florian Lejeune, Isaac Hayden, Mikel Merino plus substitutes Ayoze Pérez and Jacob Murphy.
But having got his side off to the worst possible start with that early unforced error, Saivet atoned for his mistake on 10 minutes, when he curled a 25-yard free-kick over the Hammers wall and past the groping glove of Adrián, who could not prevent the ball from sneaking inside the base of his right-hand upright.
Having clawed themselves level with Saivet’s first-ever Newcastle goal, the Magpies almost took the lead a few minutes later, when Ritchie played in the over-lapping DeAndre Yedlin, whose low, right-wing cross was swept on to the bar by the in-rushing Gayle.
In reply, Antonio sent a low 20-yarder into Elliot’s clutches before nodding over an Aaron Cresswell corner but having got off to that flying start, the Hammers had sadly lost momentum against a Newcastle side steadily growing in confidence.
As the half-hour mark approached, though, Arthur Masuaku let fly from 30 yards, but Elliot parried and no claret and blue shirts were on hand to mop up the loose ball, while at the other end, there was another let-off for West Ham, when Gayle cleverly played in Ritchie, whose 18-yarder rocked the left-hand post before Diamé sent the rebound high over from similar range.
With the interval approaching, Yedlin again accelerated down the right before crossing in towards Gayle, who contrived to fire inches over from 12 yards to leave it all-square at the break.
Just after the restart, Arnautović carved out an opening for himself however, his low 18-yarder flew across the face of goal and inches beyond the far post but, shortly afterwards, the Hammers did find themselves behind.
On 53 minutes, Atsu burst past Pablo Zabaleta, who looked all of his 32 years as he fruitlessly chased the Ghanaian’s escaping shadow and, when the 25-year-old squared towards the penalty-spot, Diamé arrived right on cue to side-foot past Adrián to the delight of the Black & White fans crowded behind the West Ham goal.
Just three minutes later, the Hammers had a great chance to level, when the sliding Clark lunged at the bull-dozing Antonio on the 18-yard line and, with referee Lee Mason awarding a contentious penalty as opposed to a free-kick, the over-confident Ayew checked his stroll forward before taking just two steps and sending a weak spot-kick at Elliot, who guessed correctly with a dive to his left.
Moyes was fuming at Ayew’s sloppiness and his fury was in evidence again on the hour, when Zabaleta kicked the ball straight at Masuaku to allow Atsu to break into the heart of the defence before playing in Yedlin on the left.
And with the static Hammers defence still trying to regroup, Yedlin squared the ball towards the penalty spot, where Atsu arrived to net Newcastle’s third goal.
With former Magpie Andy Carroll on for Antonio, the Hammers desperately tried to get back into the contest and, on 69 minutes, the Big Man headed down Cresswell’s corner and with Elliot only able to parry, Ayew went some way to making up for his horrendous penalty miss by lashing the ball into the roof of the net from six yards.
That gave Hammers hope and with Hernández also on for Ayew, Pedro Obiang sent a 25-yard stinger through the Stratford sky, while Newcastle survived a few frantic scrambles, but the Hammers could not salvage a point and they now head to Bournemouth for a nail-biting Boxing Day clash languishing in 19th-spot just one place and one point above the Cherries.
HAMMERS: Adrián, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Reid, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Obiang, Kouyaté, Arnautović, Ayew (Hernández 78), Antonio (Carroll 58). Unused subs: Hart, Sakho, Collins, Quina, Rice.
MAGPIES: Elliot, Yedlin, Clark, Lascelles, Saivet (Mbemba 83), Diamé, Manquillo, Atsu (Murphy 90), Ritchie, Gayle (Pérez 75), Joselu. Unused subs: Darlow, Dummett, Aarons, Haïdara.
Booked: Atsu (67), Kouyaté (76).
Referee: Lee Mason.