Wednesday 17 October 2018

Benitez hails Magpies' clinical focus

Newcastle United 1 Huddersfield Town 0

Ayoze Perez celebrates scoring his later winner against Huddersfield at St James’s Park. Photo: PA
Ayoze Perez celebrates scoring his later winner against Huddersfield at St James’s Park. Photo: PA

Damian Spellman

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez praised his players for their response after fearing they were too relaxed ahead of their Premier League relegation clash with Huddersfield.

The Spaniard had been delighted with the way his squad had trained all week until Friday, when he felt the need to speak out.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez. Photo: Reuters
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez. Photo: Reuters

His words had the desired effect as Ayoze Perez struck 10 minutes from time to clinch a victory at St James's Park which eased the Magpies seven points clear of the relegation zone with seven games remaining.

Benitez said: "This week, we were training really well - apart from yesterday. I was not very happy because they were a little bit relaxed, but during the week, they were training well and you could see the competition between players and you could see that they understand what we have to do as a team.

"We were talking a little bit, but the good thing about this team is they understand and they care, so as soon as we were talking yesterday, but especially today, I knew (from) the way that they were talking between themselves that they were really focused."

Newcastle squandered a series of first-half chances and then saw Mathias Jorgensen go close to the opener for the visitors before Perez struck for his first Premier League goal on Tyneside in two years.

Newcastle's Paul Dummett heads the ball beside Huddersfield's Laurent Depoitre. Photo: Reuters
Newcastle's Paul Dummett heads the ball beside Huddersfield's Laurent Depoitre. Photo: Reuters

Benitez said: "When the other team is narrow and short, you have to wait, you have to be patient in the right positions and then be sure that when you have a chance, you have to be there. Perez did it and he did it really well."

The Magpies are within touching distance of safety, but their manager is refusing to believe they are already there.

Benitez said: "Forty points is the target, so we have to carry on. We are happy, but carry on."

Huddersfield boss David Wagner, who saw substitute Scott Malone almost level at the death, was frustrated to leave St James' empty-handed.

Newcastle's Kenedy in action with Huddersfield Town's Elias Kachunga. Photo: Reuters
Newcastle's Kenedy in action with Huddersfield Town's Elias Kachunga. Photo: Reuters

He said: "We are frustrated and a little bit disappointed as well, of course, (to) concede so late in the game in a game where I think, in the second half, our game-plan worked more or less perfectly.

"We wanted to frustrate them, we wanted to play from a deeper block, minimise their chances and hurt them on the counter.

"It was defensively one of our best performances in the second half of the season. The effort, attitude, fighting spirit, togetherness, everything you need when you are in and around the position in the table where we are, was there.

"That's enough for me to get enough confidence for the next games. But you need as well to use your opportunities and we haven't done today, and that's why we conceded this defeat where I think we deserved at least a point for this great defensive attitude and fighting spirit which the players have shown."

Newcastle's Mohamed Diame and Huddersfield's Alex Pritchard challenge for the ball. Photo: PA
Newcastle's Mohamed Diame and Huddersfield's Alex Pritchard challenge for the ball. Photo: PA

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