Premier League
Newcastle United 4-3 West Ham United 

Saturday, 30th March 2024
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham came from behind to take a dominant 3-1 lead at St James' Park this Saturday lunchtime, but a disastrous penalty award ignited a collapse that saw Newcastle United recover and take all three points to win 4-3.

It was a game that encapsulated almost every angle of the debate around David Moyes's future, with wild swings in performance, intent, tactical ideas, and even the score.

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It provided great evidence for what the manager gets right and how good a team he has made, with the first half in particular a quite magnificent watch for the West Ham fan.

And you could never doubt that the match was entertaining, especially as The Hammers were arguably the better team for the majority of the game.

Indeed, from the minute the Newcastle opened the scoring, Moyes's side outplayed their hosts for nearly an hour and looked every bit value for their 3-1 lead. For a man criticised for being boring, by fans who would claim that the spectacle is more important than the result, this performance can only have been a wonderful tonic for this section of the support.

But for all its positives, the performance highlighted many of the issues the manager is facing and accused of.

There is no escaping how weak his defence has become, with consistent individual errors and poor displays hindering every game. It was Coufal today who looked as poor as he's ever done, but the captain Kurt Zouma remains a concern as he continues to look far less physical adept for Premier League football.

The unit as a whole is creaking, from midfield through to defence, and when the pressure came, they parted with far too much ease. Rather, they crumbled, as did the team as a whole. Once a strength, it is impossible to deny that the defence has now become the clearest weakness in this team.

For all the wonderful attacking football, West Ham looked at their worse when they took a 3-1 lead and quickly retreated to see the game out. The manager finds comfort in defence, but the change in approach will be rightly criticised as his side looked ill-equipped to be protecting a lead, exposing their weak defence and taking all the air out of their dangerous attack.

Replacing Antonio seemed the pivotal moment, and whilst managing the minutes of the striker is more than understandable, choosing Phillips to come on in his place backfired in every way possible. Not only was the midfielder individually poor, not only was he culpable in the ridiculous second Newcastle penalty, the change also moved Paquet?? into a striker role that he disappeared into and took all rhythm out of the attack.

And the Phillips change feels like a story within itself, the one piece of recruitment in the winter window, a player the manager has targeted for many years. His success and failure was always going to reflect on Moyes, and the beleaguered midfielder continues to look completely out of place.

And, of course, amidst the angst over the manager, his fate is being decided by officials more than his own managerial decisions. Between inept officiating and mistake-ridden defenders, Moyes is finding much of his control ripped away by individual mistakes.

Coufal compounded those woes with a touch over two minutes passed as he brought Gordon down in the box needlessly.

The home side attacked down the left, with Gordon looking to carry on his recent string of strong performances. His low ball into the box was poked forward by Sch??r, flicked at by Mavropanos and back to the left of the area for Gordon and Coufal to retrieve.

Neither got the ball, but both lunged. Gordon placed a foot down and Coufal appeared drawn to that movement, his boot flying at Gordon's half a second after, kicking his opponent and bringing him down.

The referee pointed to the spot, and whilst VAR deliberated over whether Gordon was offside, it was decided that Mavripanos's action was deliberate, and deliberate enough to start a new phase of play. By the letter of the law, they were able to justify it, even though the winger was offside when Sch??r knocked it forward in the box.

Alexander Isak stepped up, smashed the ball into the bottom corner and gave his side an early lead that could have knocked the wind out of West Ham sails.

But the away side seemed unperturbed by the setback, a calm reaction to an early setback that still left over 80 minutes of the game to play.

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They built their confidence up steadily, with Antonio clearly disturbing the Newcastle defence, none more than Lascelles, who was forced off after an innocuous collision with the forward.

That moved Dan Burn from left back to centre back, Livramento switched flank and went from right to left back, and Emil Krafth was introduced at right back.

That was significant as it was the substitute who lingered behind the defensive line and kept Antonio onside as the striker was played through and equalised for his side.

It came from patient passing out of defence that looked to have stuttered as the ball was played back in midfield to a deeper Paquet??.

But the Brazilian played one of those passes that he can play, one of those that sees fans demanding he always play centrally.

Looking up, he saw Antonio drifting behind the high Arsenal line and being kept onside by Krafth, so clipped the ball over the defence and through for Antonio to chase.

He burst beyond everyone, flew into the box and smashed it into the corner to Dubravka's left to put his side level again with just over 20 minutes played.

It was a good game, West Ham slightly the better, but both teams very much in it. Newcastle would have done well to target the woeful Coufal, who made error after error. One poor pass gave Gordon a chance he put wide, another loose header could have played the England international into the area if Mavropanos hadn't reacted in time to clean up.

The half looked set to finish 1-1, but after VAR waits and injury troubles, over 10 minutes of stoppage time was to be played, and the drama accelerated in added-on time.

Whilst Alphonse Areola struggled with a leg injury in goal, first giving goal kicks to Mavropanos before eventually being replaced at half-time, suddenly the game opened up.

Guimaraes - who had a running battle with friend and international teammate Paquet?? - was unlucky to see his curling effort from the edge of the box loop down and smack the crossbar as Areola dived well beaten.

From the counter, Kudus looked to have got away, beating Dan Burn once, but failing to do it again as the defender threw his whole body behind his shoulder barge and brought the man down. West Ham fans cried foul, and not without merit, but the referee deemed it a fair challenge. Had he not, the defender would surely have been sent off, and he might well consider himself lucky as it was a challenge given as a foul nearly anywhere else on the pitch.

It soon felt unimportant. A bouncing ball in the Newcastle half provoked a 50/50, and a loose arm from Kudus saw Sch??r brushed in the face, causing the big Swiss defender to scream and stay downed.

The referee rightly gave West Ham the freekick for the initial foul by the defender, and Paquet?? walked up to the ball as the centre back stayed down. He asked the referee if he could and then took the freekick quickly, slotting Bowen in down the right of the box.

He turned inside, but his loose touch knocked it away from him. Luckily, it was right into the path of Kudus, who smashed it across goal with his right foot and into the far corner as Dubravka could only get fingertips to the ball. 10 minutes into stoppage time, West Ham had taken the lead.

Newcastle players argued into the half-time break about the injury to the defender, still convinced it was a head injury. They were rightly batted away.

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Fabianski replaced Areola as West Ham came out for the second half, but it was up the other end where West Ham attention was turned.

After Emerson had done well to head over his own bar under pressure, West Ham countered. Kudus was the driving force, heading away from one high boot in the area, skipping over a lunging challenge on the left as he pushed forward.

The Ghanaian looked up and saw Bowen sprinting forward through the middle, with only a defender between the pair. Just before the ball rolled off for a throw, Kudus wrapped his boot around the ball, curling it past the defender and into the path of Bowen.

He drove on, pushing the ball ahead of him, 10 yards into the Newcastle half suddenly became the edge of the Newcastle box, Bowen drifting to the right slightly to keep away from the chasing defenders.

Just to the right of the centre of the box, a step or two outside the area, Bowen smashed with his right across goal and into the bottom corner. From a goal down, The Hammers had turned it around, and they were leading 3-1 three minutes into the second half.

For 15 minutes after, West Ham knocked the ball around with ease, playing sharp passes and keeping possession with wonderful to watch football.

Eddie Howe didn't like what he was watching, with three stepping up off the bench. Just shy of the hour-mark, the Newcastle manager made a triple change.

And suddenly his side were on the up. A game that had looked completely in West Ham's control now saw Moyes's side floundering. Forced to defend around their own box, the away side looked immediately panicked and desperate. Isak could have scored after ricochets in the box were controlled and passed to the striker in the middle, but he could only slice wide.

A minute later, Longstaff should have scored in a similar position. With Guimaraes holding possession on the edge, he slipped Almiron down the left-hand side of the box, and the substitute quickly turned it into the middle where Longstaff was waiting. In a bit of space in the centre of the box, the midfielder sliced wide, just like Isak before him.

Whilst they had got themselves back into the game, their bad luck with injuries continued. Livramento had been forced off moments earlier, and 10 minutes after Almiron had come on, he picked up an injury off the ball and was replaced by a former West Ham target as Harvey Barnes came on.

Moments after, Moyes made his first change. The excellent but faded Antonio was replaced by Phillips. He went deep into midfield, Ward-Prowse moved forward and Paquet?? went up top as Moyes shuffled his options and tried to stop the flow of Newcastle's attacking momentum.

It did the opposite. Phillips was a disaster, seemingly unable to grasp the concepts of how West Ham defend, consistently breaking out of position to pressure balls needlessly, bypassed instantly and exposing gaps for Newcastle to play forward into.

The home side kept pushing forward, with the home support now fully behind them, not long after they had been booing the poor performance.

A warning shot was fired after a great curling ball from Gordon around the back of the defence was met by Barnes, who smashed at goal and forced a great reaction save by Fabianski.

There was just no organisation at the back, and nothing going forward. Removing Paquet?? from the engine room took away any craft in the middle, whilst the Brazilian was isolated as a striker without any ability to work the centre backs like Antonio had.

Another ball into the chaotic West Ham box caused more drama. Barnes forced another shot at goal, blocked by the feet of Fabianski, but it bounced into the middle. It was Phillips who emerged on the ball, but he took a touch and looked up for a pass, rather than clearing.

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As he eventually went to clear, Gordon was at it again, throwing a leg in the path of Phillips's clearance. Not the ball, it should be added, but the swing of Phillips's leg. Down he went, as did Phillips, and whilst the referee gave nothing, VAR wanted more.

Soon, Robert Jones was sent to the screen, and it all started feeling inevitable again. Gordon was adjudged not to have fouled Phillips by kicking a leg out in front of his movement, but in fact to have been fouled by the midfielder. It was an undeniably stupid decision, but undeniably stupid decisions seem to be regular for Premier League games these days, especially against West Ham.

Isak smashed home another penalty, and with around 15 minutes to play, Newcastle were only a goal behind.

You know the story. Newcastle had yet to win a game from behind this season, and West Ham are West Ham, as West Ham as they come.

A few minutes later, Isak dropped deep into midfield, received the ball in space and quickly turned to play a through ball.

Coufal was deeper than the rest of the defence, and Barnes took advantage, stayed on side and then sprinted onto the through ball. He pushed it on, into the box, and drilled through Fabianski's legs to level the scores.

Moyes threw Johnson on to replace Ward-Prowse, deploying him to a left wing-back position. Newcastle were, at this point, completely all-out to attack. Murphy, a winger, was playing right back, and young wing-back Hall was on the other side. A team that had struggled to defend all game were no longer being asked to, allowing attacking players to play as auxiliary wingers from their full back positions.

As 90 minutes hit the clock, Newcastle finished the job. A looped ball over the defence looked easily to be Zouma's, but he allowed Gordon to get in, take control and back into the defender to hold the ball up. He laid it off to Barnes on the edge of the box, and the winger pushed it out of his feet and smashed low into the far corner, beating Fabianski with power and precision to score the winner.

There was still a little drama, but that inevitable fourth goal had tuned everyone out. Gordon was sent off for a second yellow card after kicking the ball away.

And then Soucek was given a late, late chance. Kudus dug out a cross that flew deep to the far post from the right. Both the defender and goalkeeper got under the ball, leaving Soucek with an open goal from a tight angle, but it seemed the midfielder wasn't ready for it to come to him. It would seem for the world he would head it in, but instead he used his chest to push it wide of goal with 97 minutes gone.

The final whistle blew, St James' Park erupted, and West Ham lost, having now dropped 19 points from winning positions. They had been seven points ahead of Newcastle when they were in the lead, four points ahead when level, but ended only a single point ahead of the Geordies, with Howe's team holding a game-in-hand in the chase for Euopean football next season.

And the arguments will rumble on. What if Moyes had used Ings? What if his side had looked to use their attacking threat, rather than a failed attempt to lock in the points?

There have been clear camps in the debate over Moyes's position. For those who back him, the football was exciting, they showed how good they can be by steaming into a 3-1 lead, and they were robbed by an awful group of officials.

For those who would like him gone, he couldn't resist going defensive, gave away all the impetus, dropped more points, and ignored our main strength - attack - to focus on a defence that lacks confidence and steel right now.

Those who demand more exciting football may well suddenly care more about the result when it doesn't suit them, but it's hard to argue against either camp today.

For whatever positives there were, there were negatives, too. But, realistically, hasn't it ever been thus at West Ham?

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Manager's Rating

David Moyes 6/10: What a job that is to judge! His side were 3-1 up away in Newcastle, playing good football and terrifying a stretched and exposed defence. And then Newcastle had some chances, and West Ham collapsed in on themselves. He shored things up by removing the striker, which removed Paquet?? from midfield and into a position where what had worked was nothing similar to how the Brazilian plays.

He did this whilst ignoring the poor performance of Coufal, misused Phillips, didn't fix the problems, and in fact exacerbated them. But then he can rightly point to the penalty incident blowing the game apart, and he could not replace every player who lost control in that second half.

Let's call it a draw, a 6/10, and a long few days of arguments before Spurs.

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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
A pretty standard afternoon until injury struck. He's had an excellent season, so whilst Fabianski is a very good replacement, the shorter this lay-off, the better.

Vladimir Coufal
The challenge on Gordon for the penalty is just a bit dumb, reacting to his moving foot by throwing his own out and ending up suckered right in. He continued to make unforced errors throughout the game, couldn't get to grips with neither Gordon nor Barnes, plays the latter onside for the equalising goal, and could have given away a couple in the first half from positions of no pressure. Vlad has had a decent season, but he still lacks a little bit of this and a little bit of that for a truly top class right back.

Emerson Palmieri
Had his moments, but has looked a little quieter since Paquet?? went into the middle.

Kurt Zouma
He's still performing better than Aguerd was, but his errors are becoming more clear and obvious due to their regularity. Does not look like a man who should be starting for a top-10 Premier League club next season.

Konstantinos Mavropanos
Saved Coufal's skin more than once, made an excellent interception of a beautiful cross that Isak was waiting to head home, and he does look comfortable playing as a Dawson-like centre back.

Tomas Soucek
Should have scored at the end, but he'd won the midfield battle with his teammates before Phillips came on and decided to Swiss cheese it in the middle. Excellent defensive numbers, and maybe the only benefit of Phillips signing is that Soucek's form has been phenomenal since.

James Ward-Prowse
Whilst there are few fans of Ward-Prowse sitting in a pair with Soucek, he clearly understands the system of defence and his role much more than Phillips. He isn't a sniffer of danger, he's no Declan Rice, but he will work his nuts off, keep possession and get into the right positions.

Lucas Paqueta
Excellent assist for Antonio, and whilst his theatrics are plainly annoying, someone in this team needs to be an irritant. We are too nice, but all his falling down is probably what inspired Schar to do it, and not only did we benefit, but it was the Brazilian who was aware of the play and took the quick freekick.

Mohammed Kudus
Another of the four-star components up top. The attacking quartet works, and Kudus is making it work on the left, even if he does feel a little out of position at times. Wherever he plays, if you can get him running at defenders on the counter, West Ham will profit. Excellent goal, just sharp instincts, whilst the assist for Bowen was majestic.

Jarrod Bowen
An assist and a goal for Jarrod, off the back of an impressive international break, with an excellent finish for this goal. He's not as involved as Kudus, but he does threaten goal more from that side, so it is probably better he goes on the right and Kudus plays down the left if one has to be out of position.

Michail Antonio
Still finding fitness, and age limits that, too, but the striker has made a huge difference since returning. Unfortunately, he can't be expected to play 90 minutes here and then perform against Spurs, and he leaves a whole that cannot be filled when he goes off. One day, West Ham won't be wondering how to replace Antonio. But it is not this day.


Lukasz Fabianski
(Replaced Areola, 46) One or two good saves, then beaten for three goals.

Kalvin Phillips
(Replaced Antonio, 68) Poor Kalvin. I don't blame the lad for the middle finger, he's not enjoying this and I doubt those fans are taking it as hard as him. He is not aligned with how we defend, and he never has been a sitter. He hunts for the ball, and we don't need that in the area we're playing him, it exposes gaps as he's going alone.

Ben Johnson
(Replaced Ward-Prowse, 83) It's hard to know what he was sent out for or where he was playing. It appeared to be a slot on the left wing, but not really in a forward area. Cornet and Ings aren't options the manager wants to use, but we sold Fornals and Benrahma to have Johnson as our substitute in these situations.

Danny Ings
(Replaced Coufal, 90) Too little, too late.

Aaron Cresswell
Did not play.

Angelo Ogbonna
Did not play.

George Earthy
Did not play.

Maxwel Cornet
Did not play.

Divin Mubama
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Kurt Zouma, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Tomas Soucek, James Ward-Prowse, Lucas Paqueta, Mohammed Kudus, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: Michail Antonio 21 Mohammed Kudus 45 Jarrod Bowen 48              .

Booked: Tomas Soucek 0 David Moyes 0        .

Sent off: None.

Newcastle United: Dúbravka, Livramento (Almirón 56 (Barnes 67)), Lascelles (Krafth 17 (Hall 57)), Schär, Burn, Longstaff, Guimarães, Willock (Anderson 57), Murphy, Gordon, Isak.

Subs not used: Karius, Dummett, Ritchie, White.

Goals: Isak (6,77 pens), Barnes (83, 90).

Booked: Gordon, Barnes, Howe, Isak.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Rob Jones.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Konstantinos Mavropanos.