The final scoreline of Fulham 1 Newcastle 0 didn’t tell the full story of the match.
Newcastle had dominated possession as a nervous looking Fulham sat back and hoped to catch the visitors on the break.
Maybe Rafa’s slightly negative team selection (three midfielders who aren’t likely to create/score goals) may not have helped but the team as a whole should surely have done a lot better.
What was worse was that as the game progressed Fulham were in the ascendancy late on, rather than desperately hanging on as Newcastle peppered the home goal.
Goals change games and it was a killer one just before half-time, plus the fact that it was yet another failure to defend a set-piece with Fulham’s most dangerous header of the ball allowed a free connection unopposed.
After the game Rafa Benitez was as keen as ever to analyse what had gone wrong and most importantly, put it right for the next match (Huddersfield at home next Saturday).
Rafa accused his players, amongst others, of having believed the hype that has built up pre-season, an expectation that promotion is a guarantee.
The Newcastle boss had warned his side against complacency before kick-off but says that maybe he will have to repeat it ‘100 times’ for it to sink in.
Rafa Benitez saying that what Newcastle faced against Fulham will be the case every week, an opposition who will work incredibly hard and be dangerous on the break.
So unless Newcastle step it up from the performance at Craven Cottage, Rafa warns the team they can expect plenty more results like Friday night’s.
As the Manager sums it up: ‘We have to improve and we have to improve right now.’
Rafa Benitez talking to NUFC TV:
‘Do you think the problem was everybody seems to think Newcastle are sure go up, too much hype?’
“That is right.
“We said before but then you have to repeat these things, maybe 100 times, and then people will realise that it is not easy.
“It will be like this every single game. Teams will be working very hard against us, every time, and if they can counter-attack well it is even more dangerous.”
‘A wake up call?’
“I hope so. Everybody has to be sure that the next game we have to be much better: mentality, approach, the game, the way that we play.”
‘More than 5,000 Newcastle fans on a Friday night when the game is live on TV?’
“Every time that you lose you are disappointed but the first game with so many fans here, even more disappointed.
“We have to improve and we have to improve right now.”
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Fulham 1 Newcastle 0
Possession was Fulham 45% Newcastle 55%
Total shots were Fulham 5 Newcastle 8
Shots on target were Fulham 3 Newcastle 2
Corners were Fulham 2 Newcastle 2
Team: Sels, Janmaat, Lascelles, Hanley, Dummett, Colback (Aarons 61), Anita, Hayden (Shelvey 77), Ritchie, Perez, (Armstrong 70) Gayle
Unused Subs: Darlow, Gamez, Mbemba, Sterry
Ref: Simon Hooper
(For instant Newcastle fan/writer reaction to the Fulham defeat go HERE)
(For the interactive Newcastle player ratings and to add your own ratings, go HERE)