How did Rafael Benitez do in his first Newcastle game?
Published 14/03/2016 | 22:11
Rafael Benitez took charge of Newcastle for the first time in their 1-0 defeat at Leicester on Monday after replacing Steve McClaren last week.
The Magpies are second bottom in the Barclays Premier League and a point from safety and, here, Press Association Sport looks at how Benitez fared in his opening game.
All eyes were on Benitez's first selection as Aleksandar Mitrovic started with the boss suggesting the striker was included from the off to boost his confidence. The injured Paul Dummett dropped out along with Emmanuel Riviere, who was benched, as Vurnon Anita also returned. That there were only two changes from the abject 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth which cost Steve McClaren his job showed the lack of options and depth Benitez has to work with.
Ayoze Perez started on the right wing as Jack Colback was shunted to left back and Benitez hinted before the game Newcastle would go back to basics to find a result. The Magpies' high tempo start left Leicester ragged but they lacked quality to make it count and test Kasper Schmeichel. Newcastle had plenty of possession but struggled to use it well enough and while they were generally organised they failed when it mattered.
Benitez was perched on the edge of his technical area and directed every player with a calm aura rather than bark instructions at his new side. Claudio Ranieri looked the more agitated manager in the hosts' dugout as Benitez kept his cool throughout. The Spaniard showed little reaction to the final whistle and keeping calm during Newcastle's crucial relegation run-in will be crucial.
After just three days in the job there are always questions over exactly how much influence a manager could have. Newcastle started brightly, as expected in front of a new boss, but began to wilt once Shinji Okazaki opened the scoring. The Magpies did not look like a side who were second bottom and were generally composed on the ball but Benitez could not get the win he was looking for.
Benitez will now know the size of the job, despite having only replaced McClaren before the weekend. With a game in hand over Norwich and sitting just a point behind Sunderland - who they face on Sunday - all hope is not lost for the Magpies. Benitez would have taken encouragement from elements of Newcastle's performance, if not their finishing, to know they can still survive.