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West Ham beats Newcastle 4-2 in Premier League opener

West Ham United's Tomas Soucek, in air, scores his side's third goal of the game from a penalty rebound, during the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and West Ham United, at St. James' Park, in Newcastle, England, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
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NEWCASTLE, England (AP) — West Ham twice came from a goal down to start its Premier League campaign with a 4-2 victory against Newcastle on Sunday in a crowd-pleasing game in front of a full St James’ Park.

Callum Wilson put Newcastle ahead in just the fifth minute and the game continued at a furious pace until the final whistle, with West Ham scoring three unanswered goals in 14 second-half minutes to get the win.

Aaron Cresswell scored the visitors’ first equalizer in the 18th minute when his teasing low ball drifted beyond the outstretched leg of Tomas Soucek and into the net. The goal was initially flagged for offside, but stood after a replay showed the ball had already crossed the line before Jarrod Bowen tapped it.

But Newcastle retook the lead five minutes before the end of an entertaining first half as Jacob Murphy stooped to head home after Matt Ritchie’s cross from the byline had just evaded the leaping Wilson.

West Ham hit back again eight minutes after halftime, with Said Benrahma getting between two defenders to head in at the back post following a cross from Michail Antonio, who did well to control a difficult pass on the left.

Antonio then saw a bullet header cannon off the bar and ricochet into Murphy, who was adjudged to have brought down Pablo Fornals in the area in an attempt to claim the loose ball. Goalkeeper Freddie Woodman guessed right to save Antonio’s penalty low to his left, but Soucek was first to the rebound and bundled in after 63 minutes.

It took only another three minutes for West Ham to seize complete control as Antonio finally got on the scoresheet on the counter, getting the ball on to his right foot and drilling low into the corner beyond Woodman.

It made for a promising start for David Moyes’ West Ham, which finished a surprising sixth last season.

“It was a really good game, if you were a neutral you would have said it was a good game of football, plenty of action at both ends,” Moyes said. “I thought we had good control of the game at different times, we kept the ball well, at times we had to suffer a bit when we didn’t have the ball.”

There were plenty of boos toward the end from the 50,000 fans at St. James’ Park, but Newcastle manager Steve Bruce criticized what he said was a “harsh” penalty decision that proved decisive.

“It’s the big turning point in the game,” Bruce said. “Once we went chasing the game we made it very difficult for ourselves. … But defensively, unfortunately, we gave away too many soft goals. It’s getting that balance right. As soon as we chase the game then we left ourselves exposed and open, we simply can’t afford to do that at this level.”