Newcastle off the mark after sailing past out-of-sorts West Ham

Newcastle United 3 West Ham United 0: Joselu, Ciaran Clark and Aleksandar Mitrovic fired the home side to victory

Martin Hardy
St James' Park
Saturday 26 August 2017 16:05
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Ciaran Clark celebrates scoring Newcastle's second goal
Ciaran Clark celebrates scoring Newcastle's second goal

They flew a lone, solitary flag of Rafa Benitez in the heart of the Gallowgate End for an hour before kick-off at St James’ Park.

When it was done, and Newcastle had blitzed West Ham, the man himself stood in his technical area, took off his specs and shook the hands of his backroom staff.

Acclaim was everywhere.

Newcastle can seem a club on the brink of permanent chaos, but when it goes right, when the side flows and St James’ opens its lungs, there are few better places to be.

Victory for Newcastle felt like a victory for Benitez as well, such was the emphatic nature of the win.

Mitrovic added Newcastle's third

His name boomed around the ground with injury-time beckoning. It had been a collected dismantling of Slaven Bilic and his own troubled side.

The questions are now his. His position is the one that looks more precarious for more simple reasons: namely, he cannot get a good display from his players.

West Ham offered nothing and a significant number of their traveling support was on its way back south long before Neil Swarbrick blew his whistle for the final time.

The breakthrough had come in the 36th minute, and it was met with a huge roar. The enormity of it was felt immediately. Matt Ritchie’s work-rate in the first half had been prodigious. He closed down Declan Rice and the ball broke to Mikel Merino. The Spanish midfielder, on loan from Borussia Dortmund, played a fine, angled ball to his left, dissecting the West Ham defence, and from there Newcastle were in.

Angelo Ogbonna attempts to get away from Matt Ritchie

Christian Atsu took the pass on the left, squared his low cross to Joselu, and the striker, a £5m signing from Stoke City, stroked the ball into the West Ham goal at the Gallowgate End.

It was the club’s first since their return to the Premier League

Newcastle had dominated the half. The support had shown their backing, both for a young team (the average age of the outfield players was just 24) and their Spanish manager. If there is a political battle being played out, he has Tyneside in his corner.

That acted as a platform for a dominant display.

The first chance had come in the eighth minute, a flowing move ended with Isaac Hayden going down the Newcastle right, crossing low and Joselu shot wide of the near post.

Andre Ayew receives treatment as his teammates look on

Ten minutes later it was Hayden’s turn to go for glory himself, when the ball reached him on the edge of the penalty area his volley from 20 yards was powerful but rising and flew over Hart’s crossbar.

Javier Manquillo’s cross flew narrowly wide of the top corner of Hart’s goal in the 28th minute and when Bilic’s side finally did spark into life at the other end, Aaron Crosswell crashed a left foot shot over Rob Elliot’s crossbar.

Five minutes later Newcastle had their lead.

There was a response from West ham after the break, but it was brief in the 53rd minute, when a Crosswell shot was only parried to Javier Hernandez but Rob Elliot saved the rebound and danger was cleared. That was as close as West Ham came.

Newcastle United's fans show their appreciation for Benitez prior to kick-off

In the 72nd minute Ritchie crossed from the right and from close range Ciaran Clark powered a header that went in off the post.

It was a good day to be a Newcastle fan. With four minutes remaining Aleksandar Mitrovic, who had only been on the field for 14 minutes, went round Joe Hart and coolly slotted in a third.

The city of Newcastle felt calmer. It is West Ham’s worry now.

Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Elliot: Manquillo, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba; Hayden (Diame 82), Merino; Ritchie (Murphy 88), Perez, Atsu; Joselu (Mitrovic 72).

West Ham (4-4-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Collins, Ogbanna, Cresswell; Ayew (Sakho 70), Rice (Lanzini 46); Noble (Kouyate 70), Fernandes; Hernandez, Antonio.

Ref: Mr Neil Swarbrick

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