West Ham eased to a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday as academy graduates Declan Rice and Mark Noble scored first-half goals at London Stadium.
The Hammers closed back to within four points of seventh-placed Wolves with a comfortable Premier League victory that was set in motion by highly rated midfielder Rice, who nodded in early on.
Newcastle’s defending had been generous for that strike and they were accommodating again as captain Noble tucked away a penalty later in the first period.
There was little by way of a response after the restart and, while West Ham can look up the table in the final months of the season, Newcastle are still not assured of top-flight survival.
An energetic start from West Ham was rewarded with the opener inside seven minutes as Rice evaded Fabian Schar from Robert Snodgrass’ right-wing corner and headed down past Martin Dubravka.
And in a first half otherwise light on goalmouth action, more poor Newcastle defending shortly before the break saw Florian Lejeune dive in on Javier Hernandez in the area, allowing Noble to smash home from 12 yards.
Ayoze Perez screwed wide after he was sent through early in the second period, before Lukasz Fabianski held on as Salomon Rondon thundered in a low strike.
But there would be no comeback for the visitors, despite Rondon going close with a late free-kick, as West Ham completed a league double over the Magpies.
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) March 2, 2019
What does it mean? Hammers looking up
Manuel Pellegrini was asked before kick-off about West Ham’s hopes for European qualification and, while he spoke only of focusing on Newcastle, his players laid their credentials out in the following 90 minutes. The Hammers dispatched an in-form Magpies side with minimum fuss and will be aiming to hunt down Wolves.
Rice rises to the occasion
Watched by England assistant Steve Holland, Rice immediately caught the eye with his goal and a powerful all-round performance.
2 – Declan Rice has scored in two of his last four Premier League home games after failing to score in his first 19. Groovy.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 2, 2019
Lejeune lapse costs Magpies
Despite creating little, Newcastle recovered relatively well from a poor start and at least kept West Ham at bay, forcing the hosts back. But Lejeune’s senseless decision to dive in on Hernandez all but ended the game as a contest, with the Magpies’ recent sturdy defensive showings quickly forgotten.
West Ham go to struggling Cardiff City next Saturday, while Newcastle host another side stuck in the mid-table mire in Everton.
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