Benítez suffers the backlash of a Hernández brace
Felipe Anderson will surely haunt DeAndre Yedlin’s memory for some considerable time . The Brazilian’s devastatingly intelligent change of pace periodically unhinged Newcastle United’s entire back four but, as his specifi c marker, Rafael Benítez’s United States international right- back endured a particularly chastening afternoon. His sense of self - esteem may take a while to recover.
If Anderson destabilised his hosts, Newcastle suffered the further indignity of dissection by Robert Snodgrass’s left- footed foot precision and were ultima ultimately grateful that Javier Javie Hernández converted only two of the chance chances that came his way. By the time Anderson cl claimed a richly merited stopp stoppage- time third, the sense sen of Geordie optimism engendered en by Benítez’s side’ side’s recent three- game winning w run had long since sinc evaporated. “Felipe’s still st learning the Premier League L but he’s improvin improving with every game,” said a contented Manuel Pellegrini who revealed Hernández’s recent appearances have been restricted by a nasty virus. “I’m so happy for Javier,” said West Ham’s manager. “He’s been fi ve weeks ill.”
All in all it was a day on which the £ 100m invested by West Ham last summer seemed shrewd business while Newcastle’s £ 20m transfer market profi t appeared high- risk folly rather than prudence.
Fortune began frowning on Newcastle as Hernández gave West Ham an 11th- minute lead , his goal coinciding with the late arrival of a minority of fans who had delayed their entry to the ground to precisely the same moment. The idea was to stage a “walk- in” protest to highlight the overall awfulness of Mike Ashley’s 11- year ownership but it rather backfi red. As West Ham celebrated, the stragglers took their seats to a volley of boos from the majority of supporters who feared the demonstration would undermine the home performance.
Sure enough, as soon as the militants started shuffl ing in, Benítez’s defence suffered a concentration lapse and Javier Manquillo allowed Snodgrass suffi cient space to curl in a gorgeous left- footed, right- wing, cross. All that remained was for the unmarked Hernández to time his connecting run perfectly before extending his right foot and gleefully sweeping the ball beyond Martin Dubravka from close range.
Newcastle may claim they were distracted by those ripples of 11th- minute movement in the Gallowgate End but Manquillo, recalled for a rare outing at left- back, already looked a weak link against Snodgrass. Had Benítez really been right to forget the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fi x it” maxim and abandon the back three which had served him so well at Burnley last Monday? That trinity’s dismantling, left Ciaran Clark, very much the hero of Turf Moor, warming the home bench alongside Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey. As Anderson’s pacily incisive advances down the left of Pellegrini’s 4- 4- 2 formation illuminated the rainiest and gloomiest of Tyneside December afternoons, the latter pair surely saw their chances of swift recalls enhanced.
With a sodden, awkwardly tricky surface ensuring that chances came and went at both ends, no one was entirely in control, though, and Ayzoe Pérez spurned three decent openings for Newcastle. Until Hernández registered his second, West Ham’s lead always looked fragile. When Declan Rice hooked a ball forward, the sporadically brilliant Marko Arnautovic fl icked a header down into the path of Hernández whose surge into the area concluded with a low shot, side- footed beyond Dubravka. Like Pérez, the Mexican had missed some decent openings but he fi nally scored again by converting surely the most diffi cult of the lot.
Not to be eclipsed, Anderson appropriately enjoyed the last word, connecting with the substitute Jack Wilshere’s slick counter- attacking pass and shooting left - footed into the bottom corner. By then Pérez had been withdrawn – and jeered off – after fl uffi ng a close- range header and a couple of shots – not to mention looking an ersatz No10. Small wonder Benítez is desperate to sign Atlanta United’s £ 25m rated Paraguay playmaker Miguel Almirón next month. Much may hinge on Ashley’s willingness – or reluctance – fi nally to speculate to accumulate.
Javier Hernández scores the fi rst of his two goals after 11 minutes just as a section of fans arrived for their ‘ walk- in’ protest against Mike Ashley