Desperate Newcastle picked off
If Newcastle United’s disgruntled supporters did not deliver the sort of mass protest that would put pressure on owner Mike Ashley to rectify the mistake he made in the summer, the team did it for them.
This was a timely reminder of Newcastle’s many limitations after three successive wins had lifted the sense of dread on Tyneside.
Having tried to arrange a protest that would see fans refuse to take their seats until the 11th minute, symbolising the frustration that has built over 11 years under Ashley, the only thing of note that happened in that minute was West Ham taking the lead through Javier Hernandez – not what anybody had in mind. Those campaigning for change at Newcastle, either in ownership or direction, cannot be faulted for their effort or the intentions, but the numbers involved were disappointing.
The fact there were also some boos from fellow supporters as they belatedly took their seats shows how difficult it is to convince others that a more militant approach is needed. Although Newcastle responded well on the pitch to conceding the first goal, they have never been good at chasing a game under Rafael Benitez.
As their desperation grew, they were undone by West Ham counter-attacks, Hernandez scoring again just after the hour. Felipe Anderson added a fine individual goal in stoppage time.
“It was a reminder of how hard things can be for us,” said Benitez. “You can see the players they have up front, the value of them. They took their chances. We were too open and were punished. We have won three games. The team was doing well, and we tried to be more adventurous.
“But we made mistakes, we didn’t take our chances and the difference was the players West Ham have up front.”
West Ham finished below Newcastle last season, but spent more than £100m to rectify that, also appointing Manuel Pellegrini as manager.
In contrast, Newcastle kept Benitez, but ludicrously ended the summer window more than £20 million in profit after telling him he had to sell in order to buy.
Had Ayoze Perez taken one of his three chances before half-time, things might have been different, but even if Newcastle had equalised, West Ham’s pace and precision in transition meant they were a constant threat.
“We gave a complete performance,” said Pellegrini.
“We scored three good goals, we were solid and our play on the counterattack created so many chances.”
Taste of success: Javier Hernandez salutes the travelling fans