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Festive cheer for high flying Magpies

GOAL: Christian Atsu was on the mark in East London

NEWCASTLE CLUNG on to their 3-2 lead in east London to win their first Premier League match since October 21.

Rafael Benitez’s side, playing some of their best football since the autumn, could never afford to relax but were still good value for a victory that brings to an end their nine-match winless run.

The Newcastle goals on December 23 came courtesy of a first half Henri Saivet free kick and second half strikes from Mohamed Diame and Christian Atsu.

The win lifted Newcastle up to fifteenth in the table. They are still some way short of safety but for once their efforts were rewarded with goals and three vital points.

Defeat for West Ham brought to an end their mini revival under David Moyes and, in the absence of the suspended Manuel Lanzini, they were the masters of their own demise in an error-strewn game.

It is clear that both managers have major work on their hands if they are to preserve their respective Premier League statuses. However, the mistakes did lead to an entertaining contest.

West Ham got a dream start, taking a sixth-minute lead when Saivet lost possession in midfield and Marko Arnautovic strode past Javier Manquillo and Ciaran Clark to slot the opener beyond Rob Elliott. It was the reinvigorated Austrian’s third goal in four games under Moyes.

That was as good as it got for West Ham, who were to be undone by their defensive frailties.

Saivet made amends on ten minutes when his 25-yard free kick curled and dipped inside Adrian’s near post. The West Ham goalkeeper might have got down quicker but the technique from Saivet was commendable.

Chances followed at both ends, with Newcastle striking the woodwork twice, first through Dwight Gayle, then Matt Ritchie. It was honours even at the break.

The visitors eventually forced the breakthrough in the 53rd minute when former Hammer Diame applied the finishing touch to Atsu’s cross. His muted celebrations were in contrast to those of the delirious travelling supporters behind Adrian’s goal.

West Ham were given an almost immediate riposte when Clark conceded a penalty but Ayew’s shot was well saved by Elliot. Benitez later said that justice was served given that he felt the offence took place outside the box.

Chances continued to abound and it was a swift counterattack that gave Newcastle a 3-1 lead. Diame and Atsu switched roles, when the former provided the pass for Atsu to steer a close range shot beyond Adrian.

Newcastle were good value for their lead but West Ham were a persistent threat and had half an hour to turn the match around.

Like Saivet before him, Ayew redeemed himself, lashing home West Ham’s second in the 69th minute as Newcastle failed to clear their lines at a corner. Substitute Andy Carroll rose to meet Aaron Cresswell’s cross and was denied by Elliot. For all that, the Newcastle goalkeeper stood little chance of stopping the Ghanaian’s follow up.

Yet an increasingly frantic West Ham could not force a third as Newcastle doggedly held on.

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