No time for panic but West Ham must make sure Newcastle blip was one-off in Champions League race

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Jack Rosser
·3-min read
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

David Moyes’s message as West Ham travelled to Newcastle this weekend was that Champions League chances like this don’t come around very often, so grab them when you can.

Starting here at St. James’ Park, the Hammers did anything but.

West Ham have coped well with the absence of key players - Aaron Cresswell joined Declan Rice and Michail Antonio on the injury list this weekend - so far. But their loss was keenly felt here in a first half in which confidence and control vanished as mistakes from Lukasz Fabianski, Issa Diop and Craig Dawson left the side in disarray and the old, ‘flaky’ West Ham which Moyes has done so well to move away from this season reemerged.

“I did not think it was our football that was flaky, our decision making maybe,” said Moyes - eager to calm any drama around the result.

“We did not pass the ball around the back as quickly and slickly as we should have done and in turn, it probably led to the mistakes we had but for the most part, we had pretty good control we needed to craft out and play our way into the game but obviously the goal and the sending off at the same time completely dominated the game and the second one made it very difficult.

“If I thought we had played badly I would be the first one to say it but I didn’t think we did at the time but we made bad mistakes which were costly for us.”

Dawson’s sending off, for two yellow cards both given for needlessly loose challenges in the first half, capped a chaotic spell in which two calamitous goals were conceded. The Hammers have shipped more goals of late, but never in this fine season has their defending been so poor.

“That is a disaster,” said Graeme Souness of the first goal on Sky Sports.

From that disaster, there was so nearly an almighty recovery. In the second half, a man down, West Ham found their verve, Jesse Lingard game to life and Newcastle were, finally, placed under some pressure.

Vladimir Coufal saw a header at the far post saved before West Ham found a way back through Diop and a Jesse Lingard penalty. Ben Johnson, who had grown into the game after a slow start, made a remarkable last ditch block on the line immediately after the equaliser, only to be too easily out-jumped by Joe Willock moments later as the Arsenal loanee scored the winner.

Getty Images
Getty Images

European football of any vintage would be a huge success for Moyes and West Ham this season, but the Scot must keep spirits high if they are to grab their Champions League chance.

“I believe that one fall will not put us down,” Tomas Soucek tweeted afterwards. That is the message from Moyes, who brushed off the impact of one result. The Scot is right to. With six games to play West Ham remain well in the hunt for the Champions League and host their closest rivals for a top four spot, Chelsea, next weekend.

One result will not be the end of West Ham’s Champions League charge. Injuries may. Moyes hopes to have both Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku back next weekend. With Dawson now suspended for that game, their respective returns - and that of Rice - become even more imperative in ensuring that flaky side goes straight back into its box.

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