EletiofeWilson and Hendrick off mark to help Newcastle burst...

Wilson and Hendrick off mark to help Newcastle burst West Ham’s bubble


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The only consolation for West Ham was that no supporters were present to turn on the board. In normal circumstances the mood would have been toxic after a display that did little to alter the impression that David Moyes’s team are in for yet another relegation battle.

Small mercies. One game in and West Ham are already in crisis. Under pressure after the controversial sale of Grady Diangana to West Brom, they needed a response. Instead, they were uninspired as Newcastle earned an impressive win thanks to fine finishes from Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick on their debuts.

It was typical West Ham to find themselves in damage limitation mode before their opening game. They had spent the week dealing with the fallout from Diangana’s departure and, in these strange times, there was something reassuringly familiar about a handful of supporters gathering outside the ground to protest against David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady in the hours before kick-off.

Such is life in this part of the capital. Even Mark Noble had threatened to turn mutinous, tweeting that he was “sad and angry” to see Diangana leave. West Ham’s captain sets the tone in the dressing room and the fear for Moyes must have been that his team would fail to put in the required effort, especially after seeing them lose 5-3 to Bournemouth in their final pre-season friendly.

The heat was on and there were times when West Ham, who are yet to make any signings, did not look equipped to handle the pressure. They were edgy at the back, with Issa Diop rattled by Andy Carroll’s strength in the air, and Newcastle were the more assertive team for long spells.

While their summer has been dominated by their failed Saudi Arabian takeover, a strange sense of optimism had fallen over Newcastle following the signings of Hendrick, Wilson, Jamal Lewis and Ryan Fraser. Jonjo Shelvey pulled the strings in midfield and Wilson looked determined to make a positive impact after his £20m move from Bournemouth, taking aim whenever he had a shooting chance.

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The issue for Newcastle was taking their chances. Wilson headed wide when Lewis, the former Norwich left-back, swung in a cross in the fifth minute and the striker would spurn another decent opening later on. Shelvey also fired wide and Carroll looked set to punish his old side when Diop misjudged a long ball, only for Angelo Ogbonna to deflect the striker’s volley over.

Newcastle needed more ruthlessness. While West Ham lacked rhythm in possession, they had weapons in attack and threatened in fits and starts. Ogbonna and Pablo Fornals both struck the woodwork, Michail Antonio tested Karl Darlow after a powerful run and there was an escape for Newcastle when Tomas Soucek headed wide from six yards.

West Ham were working hard, especially when they sensed that the dangerous Allan Saint-Maximin was about to tear down the left. The problem for Moyes, though, is that his team always struggle if opponents keep pressing at their weaknesses on the flanks. West Ham have not sorted out their frailties at full-back and it was not surprising to see them concede the opening goal from a cross, even if there was an element of fortune to Javier Manquillo’s delivery from the right deflecting off Fornals and giving Hendrick the chance to set up Wilson.

Hendrick was more alert than West Ham’s defenders as he headed on at the near post and Wilson was in the mood for a poacher’s goal, studding the ball past Lukasz Fabianski from close range. Newcastle’s debutants had combined, exposing West Ham’s deficiencies.

West Ham huffed and puffed. Yet Newcastle were comfortable and they sealed the points when Hendrick finished off a counterattack with an emphatic finish

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