Toon drop points once again as top four hopes stall after Paqueta equaliser
LUCAS PAQUETA could have been wearing a black and white shirt had worked out differently.
The Brazilian is a close pal of Toon favourite Bruno Guimaraes and was linked with a move to St James’ Park for several months.
Instead he joined West Ham in a club record £51 million deal in August after Eddie Howe moved on to other targets.
And wouldn’t you just know it – the former Lyon man became the first player to score a Prem goal against the Geordies since November 6.
His first half strike ended a run of six clean sheets and denied Howe’s men the chance to consolidate their position in the Champions League places.
And a run of four draws in their last five games has just given the chasing pack a glimmer of hope in the race for the top four.
But what a valuable point it could prove to be for the Hammers and their boss David Moyes.
Newcastle’s fans were still on a high after seeing their team reach Wembley for the first time in over two decades on Tuesday.
There was always a danger this could have been something of an anti-climax with some of the Toon players eyeing the Carabao Cup final in three weeks time.
Yet nothing could have been further from the truth as Eddie Howe’s men made an incredible start.
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Just 40 seconds had passed when Miguel Almiron’s cut-back fell into the path of Joe Willock who shimmied past a defender before thumping a shot into the corner.
But the celebrations were cut short as the VAR saw the ball had just crossed the byline before the Paraguayan rolled it across.
Yet the Toon did not let it get them down and within a couple of minutes they had scored again – and this time it did stand.
Michail Antonio lost the ball in his own half and Sean Longstaff sent Callum Wilson away through the middle.
Despite not scoring since October, the former Bournemouth striker always looked confident as he stroked it past Lukasz Fabianski.
Another VAR check followed – but this time there was no problem – Wilson was comfortably onside as he ended his 10 game goal drought.
Wilson and Antonio do a BBC podcast together – no doubt they will have plenty to say to each other when the next one is recorded.
In fact he had predicted on the most recent show that he would score after four minutes – so he was just a minute out.
West Ham’s recent form on the road has been dismal – they have earned only five points away from home this season.
And Toon keeper Nick Pope was looking to become the first English keeper to keep seven consecutive clean sheets iin the Prem.
So it was the worst possible start for the Hammers.
There were reports before their win over Everton last time out that David Moyes would have been sacked if they lost.
Instead it was his opposite number Frank Lampard who got the boot.
But the Toffees shock win over Arsenal earlier in the day had put West Ham back on the brink of the relegation zone.
To their credit though, the visitors responded well to their early setback.
Lucas Paqueta shot into the face of Sven Botman – but after treatment he was OK to continue.
Said Benrahma blasted high over the bar while Paqueta saw another effort deflected effort wide – but from the resulting corner they were level.
Declan Rice swung over the flag-kick and it flicked off the head of Joelinton to the back post where the Brazilian was lurking to slot home.
It was the first time the Toon had conceded in the league since November 6 – some 572 minutes of football.
But to be fair to the Hammers, it had been coming.
It could have got better still for them as Vladimir Coufal’s free-kick was nodded over Nayef Aguerd on the stroke of half-time.
The visitors had plenty of the ball after the break but it was the Toon who had the better chances.
The largely ineffective Allan Saint Maximin got a volley in at the back post but it was blocked by the legs of Coufal.
Joelinton went down under challenge from Aguerd in the box but only got a yellow card from ref Peter Bankes rather than a penalty.
But the Toon were becoming increasingly frustrated without their main man Guimaraes – so they threw on new £40million signing Anthony Gordon for the last 20 minutes.
The ex-Everton man looked determined to make an impression and injected a bit more life into the tiring Geordies.
His delightful pass sent Wilson racing clear through the middle but Aguerd got back to make a superb last ditch tackle to deny him.
The forward fluffed another chance when a free-kick from Kieran Trippier dropped perfectly for him but his header was straight at Fabianski.
Wilson had predicted on his podcast that he would score two in this game – maybe he should stick to playing after all.
Source: The Sun
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