Newcastle loss a wake-up call – Benitez

6 Aug

Rafael Benitez

Newcastle have won their opening game just once in the past nine seasons

Newcastle United’s opening-night defeat by Fulham was a Championship “wake-up call” for their “anxious” players, says manager Rafael Benitez.

The Magpies, pre-season promotion favourites in the second tier, lost 1-0 at Craven Cottage to Matt Smith’s first-half header.

Benitez stayed with Newcastle despite Premier League relegation in May.

“At the beginning we were nervous, in the second half we made the wrong decisions,” Benitez told BBC Newcastle.

“It’s a wake-up call. We will have games more difficult than this one.

“If we play for something more important than the first game of the season, maybe the anxiety will be even higher. We need to make sure we can manage that and play better.”

Owner Mike Ashley has funded close to £45m of new signings in preparation for the promotion bid, with five of the new additions named in the starting line-up at Fulham.

The outcome might have been different had referee Simon Hooper awarded one of two penalty appeals.

Matt Ritchie’s cross was seemingly handled by Ryan Tunnicliffe in the first half, while Tomas Kalas blocked a shot from the Newcastle forward with his arms late in the second period.

“It’s not an excuse, we have to be better,” Benitez said. “We have to trust referees, but they can make mistakes.”

Huddersfield travel to St James’ Park for Newcastle’s first home game of the season on Saturday, 13 August.


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