West Ham manager Slaven Bilic hailed the colossal impact of summer signing Dimitri Payet after the former Marseille playmaker scored twice as the Hammers routinely dispatched a blunt Newcastle at Upon Park last night.
Payet proved the hosts’ match-winner as West Ham recorded their first home win of the campaign, following defeats to Leicester and Bournemouth, which moved them to fifth in the Premier League table.
Victory also ensured that West Ham made their best start to a season for seven years, while Bilic – a long-term admirer of Payet – deflected any praise onto his £10.7m recruit, a player who has scored or assisted 11 goals in his last 13 league outings.
“He is a player who I really wanted from the start and I hoped that he was going to come,” said Bilic. “It happened so quickly I couldn’t believe it. He came in and it was done in five days and I didn’t believe it was going to happen.
“I know the player for a long time, I even try to get him to [former club] Besiktas last year but it was impossible. He’s one of those players who is not only a great player, and decides games, but he makes all the players around him play better.”
Traffic in London caused havoc to Newcastle’s travel plans, meaning the players had to walk the final mile to the ground, and there was no respite when the proceedings got underway as they fell behind in the eighth minute thanks a classy finish from Payet. The Frenchman arrived on cue to curl the ball beyond goalkeeper Tim Krul from edge of the penalty area after a foraging Mark Noble had played the ball into his path.
Chelsea loanee Victor Moses was an enterprising presence on debut and stuck the crossbar moments after the re-start, with Payet on hand to slam home the rebound to all but extinguish hopes of a Newcastle fightback.
The statistics do not read well for the visitors: three wins in 24 Premier League matches in 2015, two points from their last 10 Premier League away games and a failure to score in four successive top-flight clashes.
Newcastle boss Steve McClaren holds bitter memories of losing to a team managed by Bilic – he lost his job shortly after Croatia beat England at Wembley to dash hopes of qualifying for Euro2008.
Newcastle are winless in their five Premier League matches so far this term and defeat saw them plunge to the foot of the table after their worst start to a season in 10 years. Bilic, meanwhile, revelled in a showing which he believes validated his managerial mandate. He added: “In the second-half we were solid, we were good at keeping the ball, we were good at counter-attacking and this is small proof we are on the right way and small proof that we did really well in the transfer window.”