RAFAEL BENITEZ defended Ayoze Perez after the Spaniard was subjected to ironic cheers from Newcastle United’s home support during this afternoon’s 3-0 defeat to West Ham United.

Perez missed a succession of first-half chances as Newcastle’s three-game winning run came crashing to an end, failing to find the target with a close-range header and a couple of shots.

He was substituted in the 78th minute, and his withdrawal was greeted with loud cheers from the home crowd.

Benitez felt that was unfair, and defended Perez’s efforts despite his lack of success in the final third.

Benitez said: “He had some chances and fans are expecting he should score. It's part of the game. We created enough chances to score goals.

“I think we have to understand that everybody wants to win, starting with the players. Ayo is working really hard for the team.”

Newcastle were undone by West Ham’s counter-attacking capabilities, with Javier Hernandez scoring twice and Felipe Anderson rounding off the visitors’ victory with a goal of his own in stoppage time.

Benitez said: “We were a little bit open. You suffer. We did well enough to create and maybe score, but we didn't do it and the second goal was very difficult for us.

“The way they did the counter-attack with the pace and the quality that they had, they were very dangerous.

“Today we said we were winning three games in a row, you have to be more adventurous. I don't see a big issue in some positions. The difference was the offensive players they had.”

Hernandez was especially effective, and the Mexican was one of the strikers on Benitez’s wanted list in the summer of 2017 before he joined West Ham in a

Benitez said: “I think there were a lot of names of strikers who could be around, and maybe he was one of the options.

“Today, the four (West Ham) offensive players and the players in the middle were quite good.”