Thursday 19 July 2018

Benitez still confident Magpies can avoid drop

Norwich City 3-2 Newcastle United

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez Photo: Reuters / Andrew Boyers
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez Photo: Reuters / Andrew Boyers

Jamie Holland

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez maintains his team can still avoid relegation despite a "painful" loss at Norwich.

Aleksandar Mitrovic's penalty four minutes from time had looked like rescuing a point for the Magpies to keep them three points behind the Canaries.

However, Martin Olsson scored in stoppage time to earn Norwich a vital win which leaves Newcastle 19th and six points adrift of safety with seven games to go.

"It's really painful," Benitez said. "We cannot change things. The only thing we can take as a positive is the reaction of the team, but we have to do it also in the first half.

"We didn't play well in the first half. We didn't play as I was expecting."

Asked if he still believes survival is possible, the Spaniard said: "If we can fight and play like we played in the second half, yes.

"We have to try to keep this level for 90 minutes in the next game and for the next seven games. We have seven games to play and we have to start winning as soon as possible."

Mitrovic came off the bench to cancel out Timm Klose's first Norwich goal.

Dieumerci Mbokani scored three minutes later to restore the hosts' lead but Mitrovic then converted from the spot after Gary O'Neil was penalised for handball before Olsson's winner.

Neil lauded Congo international Mbokani, who was at Brussels Airport on March 22 when two suicide bombers struck, and, along with a further attack on the metro, caused 32 deaths.

"His goal was magnificent and I thought his overall performance was magnificent."

Olsson's goal earned back-to-back wins for Norwich for the first time since the turn of the year when they last won at home against Southampton.

"We nearly didn't (win)," Neil added. "We found ourselves at 2-2 with two minutes to go and that was really frustrating for us, because I thought we were the better side. It's a massive two points."

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