West Ham embrace their heroes and in Dimitri Payet they may have found a new one. Payet has all the skill, flair, attitude and football charisma that Hammers fans love and on Monday night, under lights, he won them a game almost single-handedly.
Payet was one of the last West Ham players off the pitch at the end, and most of the fans in the main stand stayed to applaud him.
Victor Moses, on his West Ham debut, played very well but Payet looked to be playing a different game entirely. He scored the wonderful opening goal after nine minutes and added a second shortly after the restart, both times displaying an awareness and technique that not many are blessed with.
Payet’s signing is one of the triumphs of the financial strength of mid-table Premier League sides. He was Marseille’s best player but they could not afford to keep him when West Ham offered £10.7million for him in the summer.
Newcastle signed Florian Thauvin from Marseille, as well as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum for even bigger fees, but they could be forgiven for feeling the remorse of a team who signed the wrong men.
Newcastle arrived late and offered almost nothing at all in this match, leaving them bottom after five games.
Mitrovic was suspended while Thauvin and Wijnaldum were both anonymous and both substituted. Their most dangerous attacking player was right-back Daryl Janmaat.
West Ham did not defend impeccably by any means but they did at least look more solid than in those two awful home defeats to Leicester City and Bournemouth.
There was a sense of what Slaven Bilic is trying to do here. West Ham were fairly open in midfield but, with Moses, Payet and Diafra Sakho they attacked with pace and always looked like creating chances off the cuff.
Of course what they needed, after those two dismal defeats, was a strong start, to get their home crowd relaxed and on side, putting Newcastle under pressure. Payet delivered all of that and more, giving West Ham the lead with a goal which underlined why he was coveted.
He was running the game from his No 10 role, freed up by the presence of Victor Moses, on debut, out to his left. Payet was directing all of West Ham’s best moves, and when his team-mates put one together after nine minutes, he finished it beautifully.
Sakho played a back-heel out to Mark Noble on the left of the penalty area. With no shot on, Noble rolled it to Payet lurking just outside the box. The Frenchman, with that space that good players find, assessed his options and chose to clip the ball with the inside of his right boot into the far top corner of Tim Krul’s net.
West Ham did not look wholly comfortable defending their lead, but Payet ensured they always carried a threat. There was a beautiful flick to Moses, and a lovely shuffle past Moussa Sissoko, but Payet’s sharpest action after his strike was an incisive pass through to Moses on the counter-attack.
The former Chelsea man ran through but could only drag his shot wide of the goal. If West Ham were anxious that they had not exploited that advantage, they need not have been. It took less than four minutes of the second half for Newcastle to gift them – Moses and Payet again – another chance on the counter-attack. This time they took it.
A Newcastle free-kick was cleared and Moses raced away from Vurnon Anita and Chancel Mbemba, eventually reaching the box and cutting inside. His smacked shot hit the bar and bounced down and out, where Payet made the side-footed volley finish look far easier than it was.
The two-goal lead gave West Ham a comfort and confidence they had been lacking at the Boleyn Ground so far this year, and Newcastle boss Steve McClaren had to throw on Ayoze Perez and Siem de Jong in the hope of turning the game.
Newcastle marginally improved, thanks to De Jong’s intelligent presence, but even then there was no realistic prospect of a West Ham collapse. Darren Randolph had to make two comfortable saves from Janmaat, and a rather harder one from a deflected De Jong effort.
The most significant late substitution, in fact, was Andy Carroll, who played the final four minutes seven months after his last West ham appearance. He was roared on by the crowd, who have missed him. But these fans love someone else now too.Reuse content