Bilic re­fuses to panic af­ter Benitez’s men cash in on mis­takes

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Premier League - By John War­dle at St James’s Park

Slaven Bilic’s bru­tal sum­mary of West Ham United’s lat­est de­feat il­lus­trated why he is the over­whelm­ing favourite to be the first man­age­rial ca­su­alty of this Premier League sea­son.

“It was a very dif­fi­cult af­ter­noon,” Bilic said af­ter a se­ries of er­rors contributed to a de­feat that could have been even more de­ci­sive. “New­cas­tle were bet­ter than us in every as­pect of the game. They sim­ply had more power, more de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

And that, re­mem­ber, is a New­cas­tle team that had not col­lected a goal or a point in two league games be­fore meet­ing op­po­nents whose mis­takes were pun­ished by goals from Joselu, Ciaran Clark and Aleksandar Mitro­vic.

Bilic in­sisted he was still plan­ning for a fu­ture at West Ham. “We are look­ing for one more player,” he said, but the Croa­t­ian must now wait to dis­cover if he will still be around to wel­come any new­comer. “Yes, this is wor­ry­ing, but every club has its ups and downs and no­body will take us out of this sit­u­a­tion but our­selves,” he said.

“I am the man­ager, it’s my job to be con­fi­dent and to be­lieve in good and bad times. Even when the times are bad, then you see the im­por­tance of the job more than in the good times. I’m wor­ried, but I’m not pan­ick­ing.”

It was a hugely en­cour­ag­ing day for New­cas­tle and their sup­port­ers, although they re­main fear­ful man­ager Rafael Benitez would be West Ham’s first choice if they de­cide to re­place Bilic. Those sup­port­ers have been less than im­pressed by the sign­ings the Spa­niard has been al­lowed to make be­cause of his lim­ited bud­get, yet three of the play­ers re­cruited this sum­mer were re­spon­si­ble for giv­ing them the lead with their first goal of the sea­son.

Mikel Merino, on loan from Borus­sia Dort­mund, col­lected a loose ball in mid­field and slid an an­gled pass to Chris­tian Atsu, who has made his move per­ma­nent af­ter spend­ing last sea­son on loan from Chelsea. Atsu picked out Joselu with his cross and the £5mil­lion sign­ing from Stoke scored his first goal for the club from near the penalty spot.

West Ham threat­ened an equaliser when Clark cleared off the line from Javier Her­nan­dez in the 53rd minute.

But it was an iso­lated op­por­tu­nity and New­cas­tle broke West Ham’s re­sis­tance in the 72nd minute through Clark, who ben­e­fited af­ter Matt Ritchie robbed Manuel Lanzini and crossed from the right flank.

Mitro­vic added the third in the 86th minute af­ter round­ing Joe Hart, who had again been ex­posed by dread­ful de­fend­ing in front of him.

Benitez said: “It’s al­ways good to win, but es­pe­cially the way we won, scor­ing three goals at home with a clean sheet and a great team ef­fort. It was re­ally pos­i­tive.” The fans’ re­ac­tion was a re­minder of why he has stayed at New­cas­tle – and may re­main. “The fans, the city, the stature of the club, you can en­joy it when every­thing is right – and to­day every­thing was right.

“The team was work­ing very hard and the fans ap­pre­ci­ated that. They can be the dif­fer­ence for us.”

Happy Toon: Ciaran Clark, cen­tre, nips in to put New­cas­tle 2-0 ahead at St James’ Park

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