Newcastle Utd 3 West Ham 0: Benitez hails midfielder Merino’s dynamism

Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark heads home the vital second goal in Saturday's defeat of West Ham.
Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark heads home the vital second goal in Saturday's defeat of West Ham.
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Boss Rafa Benitez hailed Newcastle United new boy Mikel Merino after an outstanding performance in Saturday’s 3-0 win over West Ham.

The midfielder is having to quickly adjust to the pace of the Premier League, having been pitched in after Jonjo Shelvey was dismissed in the opening-day loss to Spurs.

Asked about Merino, Benitez said: “There’ve been a couple of situations (where the pace has caught him out), but he’s very dynamic. He’s always moving.

“It’s a question of understanding the game here. He has natural composure on the ball.”

Isaac Hayden, Merino’s midfield partner, also impressed against the Hammers as goals from Joselu, Ciaran Clark and Aleksandar Mitrovic secured a first win of the season for the newly-promoted Magpies.

“Isaac is working hard to improve as well,” said Benitez.

“One of the main things you try and teach them is their understanding of the game – to have the compassion and commitment to know what to do in every situation.

“The gameplan was to work very hard and in two or three things they were crucial in that. The plan was to stop West Ham doing their job, and they did that very well.”

Shelvey, having served his three-match ban, will be available for Newcastle’s next game, at Swansea on September 10.

The opening goal came from full debutant Joselu on on 36 minutes.

Matt Ritchie, closing down tirelessly, caught Declan Rice in possession and allowed Merino to pick out Christian Atsu’s run into the penalty area, where the Ghana international squared unselfishly for Joselu to slide home.

Soon after the restart, Joselu flicked the ball into the path of Ayoze Perez and saw him draw a finger-tip save from Joe Hart with a skidding effort.

Home keeper Rob Elliot blocked Aaron Cresswell’s 53rd-minute piledriver and then got a hand to Javier Hernandez’s follow-up and saw Clark scramble off the line.

The second goal arrived with 18 minutes remaining when Ritchie hunted down Lanzini deep inside his own half and exchanged passes with Hayden before crossing for Clark to power a header past Hart off the inside of the post. Mitrovic wrapped up the win when he rounded the keeper and slid the ball into an empty net.

Newcastle: Elliot, Manquillo, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba, Merino, Hayden (Diame 82), Ritchie (Murphy 88), Perez, Atsu, Joselu (Mitrovic 72). Subs not used: Aarons, Saivet, Gamez, Woodman. Booked: Merino. Goals: Joselu 36, Clark 72, Mitrovic 86

West Ham: Hart, Zabaleta, Collins, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice (Lanzini 46), Noble (Kouyate 71), Antonio, Ayew (Sakho 70), Fernandes, Hernandez. Subs not used: Fonte, Adrian, Obiang, Masuaku. Booked: Hernandez, Fernandes, Sakho.

Att: 52,093.

Ref: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).