Gianfranco Zola got off to a dream start as David Di Michele scored two to help West Ham United move up to fourth after a comprehensive win over Newcastle United on Saturday.
Di Michele put his new side a goal up inside ten minutes of his home debut with a fine solo effort. His second came eight minutes before half-time when he showed good composure to finish after his initial shot was saved. Eight minutes after the interval the Italian turned provider to set up Matthew Etherington for a simple finish. Michael Owen pulled on back for Newcastle on 67 minutes but the home side held on.
Zola named an attacking looking side that included Carlton Cole, Etherington and Di Michele in a new-look three man forward line. Julien Faubert switched to right-back while Herita Ilunga, also in his first match at the Boleyn, was at left-back. Lucas Neill partnered Matthew Upson in central defence with Calum Davenport dropping to the bench. Craig Bellamy and Dean Ashton missed out with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively while the visitors had Damien Duff back after a groin injury.
United were looking to continue the best home form in the Barclays Premier League but the visitors arrived boasting a nine-game unbeaten run against their hosts. The new manager could have been forgiven for thinking he was still in his homeland as the Boleyn Ground basked in glorious sunshine before kick-off. Unsurprisingly, there were several bare-chested supporters visible amongst the away support.
Zola had promised attacking football and his team quickly set about demonstrating that the message had got through. Di Michele and Faubert both found themselves in promising positions in the Newcastle area in the opening few minutes but neither could quite capitalise.
Di Michele did not have to wait long to make his mark at the Boleyn though. In the eighth minute he collected the ball on the right side before beating both Newcastle centre-halves and firing in a left-footed shot which deflected off Steven Taylor and over the hapless Shay Given.
Mark Noble then fired two free-kicks over the bar soon after as United looked to build on their early goal. Newcastle tried to get themselves back in the match but the several crosses they offered in dangerous positions were expertly dealt with by Neill and Upson.
Zola's men played some short, crisp passing and were getting plenty of joy down the left as first Di Michlele and then Etherington crossed dangerously. Owen headed wide from a corner in his side's first real chance of the match.
Di Michele then got his second after some perserverance. Noble split the defence with a smart through-ball which the Italian tried to flick over Given. The Irishman saved well but the new No32 reacted quickest pick up the rebound, lob it back over Taylor and smash in at the near post with his left-foot. It was a goal taken in a manner not to dissimilar to that of another Italian forward that used to ply his trade in the east end.
The second half began as the first ended with Faubert crossing for Cole, who glanced his header over. Neill, who had been so dominant in the opening 45 minutes, then went into Phil Dowd's notebook a few minutes later for a late tackle on Owen.
The home side then got the third goal their offensive attitude had deserverd. Di Michele broke the visitors offside trap and raced into the area. The striker could have shot for his hat-trick but unselfishly cut it back for Etherington, who was left with a simple tap-in.
The home support amongst the 34,743 inside the Boleyn were willing their new striking hero to get his third. He had a chance just a few minutes later but he sent his shot high into the Bobby Moore stand.
The visitors got on the scoresheet midway through the second half when Owen curled in a shot from the edge of the area that left Green with no chance. The goal seemed to give them a lift and Green had to get down well to save from N Zogbia and then Duff soon after.
Zola changed it round in the 72 minutes by bringing on Hayden Mullins and Luis Boa Morte for Scott Parker and Etherington. Newcastle kept pushing but a late booking for Charles N'Zogbia summed up the visitor's frustration. The outstanding Cole made way to a standing ovation just before full time when Freddie Sears entered the fray to sum up the attacking intent until the end. Boa Morte could have added a fourth in the last minute when he raced clean through but he dragged his shot wide.