Rafa Benitez cut a very angry and frustrated figure on the touchline at Craven Cottage on Friday night, his players stumbling at the first hurdle against a team expected to struggle.
After the match the United boss gave a very honest interview, as he explained his frustration at the players not being able to replicate the good things they had been doing in the less-pressurised pre-season training and friendlies.
In particular, Rafa Benitez listed five ways in which the Newcastle team let themselves down:
Anxious in possession.
Giving the ball away too easily.
We couldn’t hold the ball in attack.
We were not winning the second balls in the middle.
We were too deep sometimes instead of pushing up.
As Rafa points out, whilst the defending on the goal was costly it was much more due to the reasons that he listed above, as to why Newcastle came away from West London with nothing.
Rafa Benitez speaking to the club’s official TV channel:
“It was a bad game for us. We made a mistake and we didn’t play at the level we wanted to play.
“We were a little bit anxious in possession, giving the ball away easily, we couldn’t hold the ball in attack, we were not winning the second balls in the middle and we were too deep sometimes instead of pushing up.
“Things we were doing better in pre-season, today maybe we had to manage the responsibility in a better way.”
‘A problem in pre-season was defending set-pieces and that came to bite again?’
“Yes but if you want to analyse the corners and free-kicks, we were quite good, but we did make one mistake.
“It wasn’t really the problem, it was more the other things we didn’t do well that cost us the game.”
‘Two penalty appeals?’
“The first one seems clear but I don’t want to make any excuses, we have to improve a lot.”
‘Next two games at home a positive?’
“I hope so.
“We don’t play with the same anxiety I hope. Still, we have to improve and have to manage the situation with more control, more calm, more quality.”
(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)