Newcastle United 4 West Ham 0

The new Premiership season got off to a dismal start for the Hammers at St. James' Park on Monday night, as they went down 4-0 to a Newcastle United side who look as though they will have a major say in the domestic honours this year.

After matching Sir Bobby Robson's men for an hour, the Hammers were left stunned by three goals in the space of 14 second half minutes as last season's Champions' League qualifiers gave a clear signal of their intentions for the 2002-03 campaign.

A double strike from Lomana Lua Lua and one apiece from Alan Shearer and Nolberto Solano was hard luck on Glenn Roeder's team, who battled bravely throughout

The absence of influential striker Fredi Kanoute - ruled out with a neck injury sustained in training - hardly helped the Hammers' cause and proved exactly how important a fully-fit squad is to Roeder, but stand-in striker Joe Cole produced a spirited display alongside Jermain Defoe and things could have been so different had we enjoyed the rub of the green in an evenly-matched first half.

Even after a nervy start, when Dabizas and Lua Lua both went close for the hosts, Hammers settled down and began to frustrate their opponents with a determined and energetic display.

With just 11 minutes gone, Defoe forced the first corner of the game and, from Cole's short kick, Trevor Sinclair's snap-shot was well pushed away by Shay Given. Sinclair then picked up the rebound and crossed for Ian Pearce to head just wide of the target.

Nine minutes later, Tomas Repka's lofted pass almost released Edouard Cisse, who was denied by a last-gasp tackle from Bramble, while at the other end Alan Shearer saw his effort disallowed for a push on Christian Dailly.

Cole, whose tireless running and clever touches were a major contribution to West Ham's first half performance, then almost produced a moment of magic as he skipped between two defenders before rifling a low shot just inches past Given's right-hand post.

Winterburn was harshly booked for a foul on Solano 10 minutes before the break, while Cisse suffered the same fate moments later for an innocuous challenge on Bernard.

A Shearer free-kick was deflected narrowly wide in the closing stages of the half and that was the final incident of any note as Hammers went into the interval deservedly level.

Newcastle started the second half in predictably fired-up fashion and went close just two minutes in when Shearer's low driven cross fell perfectly for Solano just four yards out. However, the Peruvian was denied by a superb point-blank save from David James, who injured himself in the process.

The England keeper recovered, though, and needed to be alert again just seconds later when Lua Lua broke free and fired in a fierce shot that was held comfortably.

On 57 minutes, James was tested further, acrobatically tipping over a Bramble header as Newcastle began to respond to the vociferous and demanding support of the St. James' Park crowd.

Their wish was finally granted in the 61st minute, when a Solano corner was flicked on to the far post, where Lua Lua was waiting unmarked to slam the ball through the legs of James from eight yards out.

Portuguese starlet Hugo Viana almost doubled the lead two minutes later with a rasping left-foot shot that was superbly turned round by James, but Hammers fought back and Cole so nearly mustered an equaliser with a mazy run that was halted in the area by Given, while Carrick went close with a measured drive that flew just wide.

In the 70th minute, Roeder made a double substitution as Labant and Moncur replaced Schemmel and Cisse to form a 4-4-2 formation, but just moments later the visitors were dealt a hammer blow, conceding a second killer goal.

A dangerous cross from Viana dropped perfectly for Lua Lua, who grabbed his second with a bullet header that James got a strong hand to but couldn't prevent from finding the net.

Five minutes later, the contest was over as Newcastle carved open the Hammers defence to secure their third goal. Lua Lua's excellent pass released Solano, who unselfishly cut the ball back for Shearer to open his account for the season.

With five minutes remaining, Solano rounded off the scoreline with a simple tap-in after Shearer had returned the favour, and Hammers were simply left to reflect on what might have been.

Full-time: Newcastle United 4 West Ham United 0.