Toon Go Looney As Hammers Crash in Stratford
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 24 Dec 2017 15:54:00
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After ending last week on a high, West Ham United suffered disappointment on Saturday afternoon as their Christmas fixture programme started with a narrow 3-2 home defeat to newly-promoted Newcastle United.

David Moyes made three changes to the side that played in last weekend's win at Stoke City, as Winston Reid returned in defence to replace James Collins and captain the side, in the absence of Mark Noble, while Manuel Lanzini's suspension meant a recall for Cheikhou Kouyaté and André Ayew started in place of Noble, who picked up a hamstring injury against the Potters.

The Irons were desperate to claim back-to-back victories and they were on their way to doing just that with only six minutes gone, when a defensive mistake from Henri Saivet set up Marko Arnautović, who ran past Ciaran Clark and slotted past goalkeeper Rob Elliot to claim his third goal in four games and the home fans were thinking that another key victory could be on the cards.

However, their mood soon changed as Saivet made up for his error just four minutes later when he equalised, catching out Adrián at his near post with a cleverly worked freekick.

The visitors were certainly in the ascendancy by this point and could have increased their advantage on seventeen minutes when a great team move involving DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle ended with the striker hitting the bar.

Although Arthur Masuaku forced Elliot into a good save from range, on 34 minutes the Magpies went even closer, as Ritchie once again combined with Yedlin but fortunately for the Hammers, the former AFC Bournemouth striker saw his curling effort hit the post.

Although Newcastle continued to pose a threat, there was action at either end: Michail Antonio headed wide, whilst Gayle squandered a gilt-edged chance for his team after the home side's defence had come under yet more pressure from the potent strikeforce.

When referee Lee Mason blew the whistle for half-time, the hosts were hoping that they would at least level matters to keep Moyes'unbeaten home record intact.

At the break, Rafael Benitez obviously told his men to keep going as, when the action recommenced, they looked the more likely to go on and score the next goal.

It duly arrived on 53 minutes, when an excellent ball deceived Pablo Zabaleta and on his return to his former club, Mohammed Diamé was on the end of Christian Atsu's low cross and finished past Adrián.

Three minutes later, the hosts were given hope, as Mason awarded them a penalty after he adjudged Clark to have brought down Antonio in the area when the contact was actually made outside.

With the regular skipper not involved, it was left to Ayew to bring the Hammers level but Elliot made the save from a woeful effort.

Another three minutes had elapsed when Moyes decided to make his first change, bringing on Andy Carroll in place of Antonio.

The afternoon wasn't getting any better for the Irons who fell further behind when, indecision between Zabaleta and Masuaku, following a clearance from Aaron Cresswell's corner, allowed Joselu to break free and cross low for Atsu to force the ball past Adrián.

The hosts reduced the arrears when Ayew made amends for his earlier penalty miss, as he smashed the ball home after Carroll's header was saved on the line by Elliot.

After he had brought the home side back into the game, Ayew was replaced by Javier Hernández on 79 minutes.

One last chance was fashioned by the Hammers but Pedro Obiang's long-range drive missed the target.

Even with four minutes of stoppage time added, West Ham were unable to find an equaliser, falling to their first home defeat since 4 November.

The Hammers will hope to end 2017 on a positive note by claiming a much-needed three points when they face AFC Bournemouth at The Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day.

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