Relief for Benitez as Newcastle crush West Ham 3-0

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Newcastle United put a smile back on Rafael Benitez’s face as new signing Joselu inspired their first win of the season in a 3-0 success against West Ham United on Saturday.

Frustrated by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s failure to back him in the transfer market, Magpies boss Benitez hinted this week that he doesn’t see his long-term future at St James’ Park.

Benitez has had to make do with a series of low budget deals, prompting suggestions the former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager is on the verge of quitting.

But, with the transfer window closing next week, Benitez received some much-needed evidence that his squad are capable of competing in the Premier League.

Joselu scored Newcastle’s first league goal of the season in the first half and late efforts from Ciaran Clark and Aleksandar Mitrovic wrapped up the points.

While Benitez finished the afternoon with his spirits lifted, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic was down in the dumps after his side’s third successive league defeat left them bottom of the table.

Benitez had warned Ashley in pre-season that Newcastle needed a major overhaul to turn last season’s Championship winners into a team capable of surviving in the top flight.

Joselu hardly seemed the answer after a disappointing two-year spell at Stoke, but the Spanish striker, signed for £5 million ($6.4 million) earlier this month, made the most of his first start.

A midweek League Cup exit against second-tier Nottingham Forest had piled further pressure on Newcastle and Joselu couldn’t lift the gloom early on when he shanked a half-chance well wide.

But, after a predictably nerve-ridden opening, Joselu broke the deadlock in the 36th minute.

West Ham’s teenage midfielder Declan Rice squandered possession and Mikel Merino pounced, setting Christian Atsu free for a cross that Joselu poked home under pressure from two defenders.

Suddenly there was a spring in Newcastle’s step and Merino’s stinging strike tested West Ham goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Hart had to be alert again to deny Ayoze Perez before Hammers striker Javier Hernandez, already on a booking, escaped a red card after fouling Javier Manquillo.

West Ham almost equalised when Rob Elliot kept out Aaron Cresswell’s drive before Hernandez’s follow up was cleared off the line by Clark.

Matt Ritchie led the Newcastle response, forcing Hart to save his low shot before providing the assist for his side’s second goal in the 72nd minute.

Racing past Manuel Lanzini, Ritchie whipped over a pin-point cross and Clark was perfectly placed to score with a header.

Mitrovic ensured there was no late sting in the tale for Benitez, the Serb rounding Hart to slot home in the 86th minute.

AFP

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