Rafa Benitez outlines Newcastle survival plan for final eight matches
Rafa Benitez reflected after a derby game that could easily have been lost and perhaps any remaining survival hopes along with it.
The excellent late goal from Aleksandar Mitrovic meant Newcastle salvaged a point and some self-respect, plus pointed the way towards avoiding the drop.
Rafa Benitez believes that the second half fightback showed that all is not lost and Newcastle have to build on that and improve the play in the final third.
The new manager thinks that if they improve there and create more chances then Aleksandar Mitrovic and the other forward players can score the goals to keep Newcastle up.
The former Anderlecht player has been largely disappointing, after far too much expectation was put on a 20 year old signing who was being asked to step up instantly from a weaker league and score the goals, which would have seen Newcastle at least safe.
However, in his defence, the majority of goals he scored before moving to Tyneside were with his head and the service to him has been abysmal.
Wijnaldum’s cross was decent and the header from Mitrovic was outstanding – much more of the same please.
“The positive thing for me is we have eight games to play and the reaction today from the players was positive.
“To win would have been perfect but when you are losing in the first half and keep the same gap, it’s positive.
“The main thing was that the fans supported us today and we want that in every single game.
“I think we can stay up. We have to keep working, I believe they can play better and from what I have seen today in the second half, they can do well.
“It was scary before…I am here because I have to give the team confidence and we have to improve things.
“Again I will say, at Leicester you could see a lot of good things- still not enough.
“Today in the second half, a lot of good things – not enough.
“We have eight games to play and we know they will be incredibly difficult. We know it will be difficult, for sure – I knew that before.
“We are creating chances, we are attacking and we can be there, so we have to improve this part of the game and create more chances and Mitrovic, or Papiss Cisse, or the other strikers, will score more goals and we will be fine.
“But I can maybe say that we will have to fight until the last game and the last minute, so we have to do it.”
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Sunderland 1
Newcastle: Mitrovic 83
Sunderland: Defoe 44
Possession was Newcastle 60% Sunderland 40%
Total shots were Newcastle 17 and Sunderland 14
Shots on target were Newcastle 8 and Sunderland 4
Corners were Newcastle 2 and Sunderland 5
Team: Elliot, Janmaat (Anita 71), Lascelles, Mbemba, Colback (de Jong 62), Townsend (Cisse 76), Shelvey, Sissoko,Wijnaldum, Perez, Mitrovic
Unused Subs: Darlow, Saivet, Taylor, Riviere
Ref: Martin Atkinson
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