Rafa Benitez accuses his players of bottling it
Rafa Benitez looked about as impressed as the average fan after the referee blew the final whistle on Boxing Day night.
His team looking short of ideas, weak when defending against counter-attacks, then increasingly ragged as the game wore on.
Rafa’s verdict was that his players had bottled the big occasion, with United having a full house in front of a TV audience, with the chance to go four points clear.
The United boss declaring afterwards: ‘We didn’t handle the pressure well…’
It was predictable that fans and media would bring up the subject of Jonjo Shelvey if things went pear-shaped and Rafa Benitez reacted to that by saying that obviously United were missing a ‘good player’ – but that his team ‘have enough quality to win games without him’.
The Newcastle Manager also made the point that maybe his players have to at times settle for a point when games aren’t going their way – Rafa Benitez concerned at the success Sheffield Wednesday had with counter-attacks as gaps opened up when Newcastle were trying to push it.
“We didn’t handle the pressure well…
“I think I was proved right when I said before the match that this would be a tough game – I said we were up against a good team and that is what we saw.
“A team with experience of this league, with good players and well-organised, who can be a threat.
“Because we didn’t take our chances early on, we allowed them to create chances on counter-attacks – they gave us problems.
“How much was Shelvey missed…?
“You never know – he is a good player but we do have enough quality on the pitch to win games without him and we need to do that.
“We should never have allowed them as many counter-attacks in which to score in the game – we have to learn how to draw sometimes, maybe then if we learn that we can have a better second half of the season.
“Instead of just thinking that we have to win every game, sometimes it is okay to draw.
“We needed to score in this game and when it didn’t happen, we got a bit anxious and then started to give them too much space to create counter-attacks, so again I would say, these are the games you have to learn to manage – we are losing games that we sometimes might draw or win.
“That is now four defeats at home this season and that is not ideal.”
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1
Sheffield Wednesday: Loovens 53
Possession was Sheff Wed 36% Newcastle 64%
Total shots were Sheff Wed 13 Newcastle 9
Shots on target were Sheff Wed 5 Newcastle 4
Corners were Sheff Wed 5 Newcastle 11
Newcastle starting 11:
Darlow, Anita, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Hayden, Colback (Mitrovic 80), Ritchie, Gouffran (Atsu 62), Diame (Perez 69), Gayle
Sels, Mbemba, Yedlin, Lazaar,
Referee: Paul Tierney
(To read the instant NUFC fan/writer reaction go HERE)
(To view our interactive Newcastle v Sheff Wed player ratings and to add your own, go HERE)
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