Marco Silva may have suffered worse days as a manager but probably not many. Nathaniel Chalobah’s red card eight minutes into his first Premier League start for more than two years paved the way for Newcastle to secure their second victory of the season as Fulham’s early momentum came to a shuddering halt.
Goals from Callum Wilson, Sean Longstaff and two either side of half-time from Miguel Almirón, one of them an outstanding volley, ensured Newcastle moved above their opponents in the top half of the table and gave their travelling supporters an afternoon to remember.
For Silva – who also saw his top scorer, Aleksandar Mitrovic, limp off before half-time having failed to shake off an ankle injury picked up on international duty – it was an unwanted reminder that his side remain extremely vulnerable in defence after playing most of the match with 10 men when Chalobah was shown the earliest red card of the Premier League season.
“It made things easier for Newcastle but we were too sloppy. It was a strange afternoon for us,” said the Fulham manager, who was critical of the intervention by the VAR, Mike Dean, after Chalobah’s card was upgraded from yellow to red.
“We will see this kind of incident next week and no penalty will be given. There is no consistency.”
Newcastle’s failure to record a victory since beating Nottingham Forest at the start of August meant this performance came at just the right time for Eddie Howe, who was delighted with the energetic displays of the midfielders Longstaff and Joe Willock in particular.
“We knew we needed to win,” he said. “We’ve let games slip that were winnable so it was a pivotal moment in our season. Our attitude was spot on.”
Fulham began the afternoon with an opportunity to move into the top four after their excellent start after promotion last season but their chances of achieving a positive result were ruined when Chalobah flew recklessly into a tackle on Longstaff. Willock had already needed treatment after the former Newcastle defender Kevin Mbabu upended him inside the opening two minutes but the referee, Darren England, had no choice but to send off Chalobah after intervention from Dean.
It was not long before Newcastle were ahead. Mbabu was caught out by Willock at the back post after Kieran Trippier’s excellent cross and this time Wilson made no mistake. The England forward had somehow managed to hit a post from close range just before Chalobah’s red card after Bernd Leno saved Longstaff’s powerful drive.
With Bruno Guimarães pulling the strings in midfield, Newcastle poured forward at will and almost doubled their lead when Wilson curled just wide. It was only a matter of time before they scored again as Fulham struggled to contain the visitors but there was nothing ordinary about Almirón’s superb dipping shot after another inch-perfect pass from Guimarães. “He’s capable of doing magic things and that was a magic goal,” said Howe.
If Silva thought things could not get much worse then he was mistaken. Mitrovic limped off just before Longstaff tapped home at the far post to make it 3-0 after Leno’s excellent save to deny Sven Botman.
Silva responded by taking off the injured Layvin Kurzawa and Mbabu before half-time, with both full-backs having played their part in Fulham’s downfall.
It was not exactly how their owner, Shahid Khan, would have imagined his team performing as spectators filled one of the upper blocks of the stunning new Riverside Stand for the first time.
Fulham’s switch to a back five for the second half, with Dan James and Bobby Decordova-Reid as wing-backs, was an attempt at damage limitation, but Willock soon came close to making it 4-0.
Another brilliant run and cross from the midfielder allowed Almirón to do just that before the hour mark, when Guimarães was withdrawn with the points in the bag. Almirón almost rounded it off with a hat-trick, only to be denied by the assistant’s flag on an afternoon where pretty much everything had gone Newcastle’s way.
Decordova-Reid’s late strike was at least a consolation for Fulham in a defeat Silva will hope they can move on from quickly.