Earlier this month, Allan Saint-Maximin donated more than 60 care packages filled with luxury French chocolates and shopping vouchers in department stores to NHS staff on Tyneside.
On his first start since February, the former Nice winger appeared to be laden with gifts on the pitch for his teammates, creating counterattack chances virtually every time he dribbled past West Ham’s increasingly panicked defense.
Saint-Maximin has done more than anyone wearing black and white stripes to undermine David Moyes’ hopes of leading Londoners to the Champions League next season while helping Newcastle open up a nine-point advantage over their main relegation rivals, Fulham.
As Steve Bruce’s side move up to 15th, with 35 points, West Ham – reduced to 10 men here after Craig Dawson’s 37th dismissal for collecting a second yellow card – remains fourth but will be keenly aware that Chelsea and Liverpool, and to one to a lesser extent, Tottenham and Everton, breathe down their necks.
Appropriately, Saint-Maximin also referred to Newcastle’s opening goal. When Craig Dawson took down Joelinton on the halfway line, referee Kevin Friend played the advantage, allowing the Frenchman to take the loose ball and accelerate into the zone before unleashing a low shot. Although Lukasz Fabianski contributed, Issa Diop was on the way and the ball bounced off the West Ham defender’s leg before crossing the line.
As Newcastle celebrated, Dawson, already on a yellow card, was sent off and it wasn’t long before his side conceded again. This time, Fabianski fumbled around what should have been a routine corner stop and Joelinton spun abruptly before coming back at close range.
While Moyes’ side enjoyed a decent amount of ball possession in the first half, they had done very little one afternoon when Bruce’s defense rejoiced in denying the danger of free-kick routines. visiting.
Even before Dawson’s expulsion, it was hard to dispute Jonjo Shelvey’s pre-match claim that Newcastle’s side were ‘as good as West Ham’s’. Judging by how Moyes’ players failed to capitalize on the rare occasions when Shelvey lost his focus and allowed an opponent to intercept his passes, the Newcastle midfielder had arguably been a little generous.
West Ham were much better with 10 men, improving considerably in a second half in which Newcastle turned into a worrying slapdash and Saint-Maximin limped to be replaced by Callum Wilson.
Considering the home side’s loss of focus, it was hardly surprising that an unmarked Diop was able to connect with a cross, lead a bowed head into the ground and watch his rebound cheat Martin Dubravka on the way. towards a goal on the right. If normally ultra-reliable center-back Federico Fern ández was guilty of leaving Diop unattended, Dubravka may not want to study reruns of that header.
However, the Newcastle goalkeeper didn’t stand a chance with West Ham’s equalizer. When Ciaran Clark deflected a long throw with his forearm, a VAR test confirmed handball and Jesse Lingard happily whipped an unstoppable penalty.
Late, Bruce’s players woke up. Jacob Murphy saw a pretty brilliantly blocked shot from Ben Johnson before, seconds after leaving the home bench, Arsenal lender Joe Willock encountered star center Matt Ritchie sent a header crashing past Fabianski after flying past Johnson.
As Bruce celebrated an important step towards Premier League survival, Moyes’ European horizons contracted as the West Ham manager’s woes exacerbated as Lingard limped.