Newcastle United 2 West Ham United 4
- Martin Atkinson
A bumper crowd returned to St. James’ Park for the first time since February 2020 but the majority left disappointed as West Ham produced a fine second-half comeback to see off Newcastle – who’d twice got themselves in front.
The Magpies were the better side during the opening period and could hardly have started better, Callum Wilson applying the finishing touch to Allan Saint-Maximin’s early cross after superb work from the Frenchman. Aaron Cresswell equalised for West Ham less than a quarter of an hour later but United led for a second time thanks to Jacob Murphy’s header.
But, after levelling things up again through Saïd Benrahma, the Hammers took the game away from Newcastle in a devastating three-minute spell. Premier League debutant Freddie Woodman kept out Michail Antonio’s penalty but could do little to deny Tomáš Soucek from the rebound, before Antonio made amends with a clinical finish to turn the game completely on its head.
Stunned, United struggled to respond after that, as an afternoon which started with so much promise petered out completely.
Coming into the clash, more than 18 months had passed since United last found the net at a near-full St. James’, when Isaac Hayden struck at the death to see off another London side, Chelsea. But just five minutes into the Hammers’ visit, the roar returned. Saint-Maximin was the architect and more, twisting one way then the other just right of the visitors’ penalty area before putting the ball on a plate for Wilson to nod home. On what was something of a “second” home debut for the frontman, and one or two others, he enjoyed his moment – running away and sliding towards the corner flag at a jubilant Leazes End.
The Magpies didn’t lead for long, though. With 18 minutes played, David Moyes’ side got themselves back on level terms after Cresswell’s cross-come-shot crossed the line at the back post. At first, the goal was disallowed, with the ball seemingly having taken a touch off Soucek first. A VAR check proved otherwise, though, and parity was restored. Jarrod Bowen nearly completed a quick-fire turnaround midway through the half, weaving his way into the penalty area and taking aim, only to be denied by a sprawling stop by Woodman, who had been handed his top-flight bow in the absence of Messrs Dúbravka and Darlow.
And end-to-end period followed, but – after a chance for Miguel Almirón at one end and Soucek at the other – it was Newcastle who led going into the break. Almirón fed Matt Ritchie down the left and the wide-man swung a looping cross into the heart of the Hammers’ penalty area. There to meet it was Murphy, who sent a downward header past a flat-footed Lukasz Fabianski and into the far corner of the net.
The move wasn’t altogether dissimilar to that which led to West Ham’s second leveller, which arrived eight minutes into the second half. Antonio did brilliantly to keep a Hammers attack going down the left, chasing the ball down and digging in a fine cross from the byline. At the far post, Benrahma had timed his run to perfection, and Woodman could do little to keep out the Algerian’s header.
Another twist to a topsy-turvy game wasn’t long in coming. Instrumental in the visitors’ leveller, Antonio really ought to have found the net himself after 62 minutes, heading Vladimír Coufal’s cross against the woodwork with the goal gaping. However, in the resultant melee, Murphy tripped Pablo Fornals and Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot. Woodman did superbly to keep out the big striker’s penalty but Soucek was on hand to pick up the pieces and fire home the loose ball.
Rather than respond themselves, however, Newcastle started to unravel. Things swiftly went from bad to worse for Steve Bruce’s side as the Hammers attacked at pace on the counter, and Fornals slid the ball through for Antonio. Putting his penalty miss firmly to one side, the frontman produced a ruthless finish to beat Woodman and open up a healthy lead for the visitors.
If the first three quarters of the game were frenetic, the last one was anything but. Suddenly two goals to the good, West Ham took the sting out of the contest and the Magpies struggled to regain a foothold. They did muster up a couple of half-chances – substitute Ryan Fraser firing wide, and Ritchie seeing an 18-yard effort deflect narrowly off-target – but ultimately ended up paying the price for a sloppy start to the second period.