Sport Soccer

Friday 20 September 2019

Benitez: Top-10 finish would be a Magpie miracle

Newcastle did not have a shot on target in a poor game at St James’ Park.

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez (left) and Fulham counterpart Claudio Ranieri at St James’ Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez (left) and Fulham counterpart Claudio Ranieri at St James’ Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)

By Damian Spellman, Press Association Sport

Rafael Benitez has admitted it will be “another miracle” if Newcastle manage to finish in the top half of the Premier League table this season.

The Spaniard guided the club into 10th place at the end of the last campaign – an achievement he described at the time as a miracle – but after another summer of limited investment while those around them spent heavily, believes the degree of difficulty has increased this time around.

Speaking after seeing his team fail to muster a single shot on target in a desperate 0-0 draw with bottom-of-the-table Fulham at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon, Benitez was philosophical.

He said: “I’m not happy with a point, but I’m happy because we didn’t lose and we have four points from the last two games. I want to win and I want to win every game.

“The problem is that you have to be realistic and if you cannot win, be sure you don’t lose these kind of games.

“It’s not easy for anyone here. I was talking last week with people at Huddersfield and we talked about the pressure, a big city, a big club, what it means for us, what it means for them and how you manage this situation.

“I think our fans know. Obviously during the game, they want the best for the team and they are expecting something more, but I am sure after a couple of days, they will say, ‘Okay, we have to keep supporting the team because it’s what we have and these players are giving everything’.

“Sometimes we make the wrong decisions, but it does not mean that we are not trying to do our best every single game.

“I said after Huddersfield that we have to give credit to this group of players because with all the circumstances here, they are doing well.

“But still, we have to realise that we will be in the bottom half of the table during the whole season because it’s like that, and if we do well and we can higher, it will be another miracle.”

Opposite number Claudio Ranieri was a happier man after seeing his side keep a first top-flight clean sheet of the season at the 18th attempt in a game which saw both teams have penalty appeals waved away by referee Martin Atkinson.

Ranieri said: “At this moment for us, it’s important to get a point, it’s important to have a clean sheet because in the last matches, we have played well and from their first chance, the opponent has scored a goal.

“They made a lot of crosses – 30 – and they shot at goal, but our keeper never had to save anything.

“We created more on the counter-attack – we had four or five chances to win the match – but at this moment, it’s important not to lose and for the first time, we have a clean sheet.

“That, for us, is very important.”

PA Media

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