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