Rafael Benitez said that his Newcastle side’s fighting qualities against Manchester City, in a game they dominated for long stretches, had given them belief they could avoid the drop.
“To see the team with this belief and this fight we have to be optimistic for the rest of the games,” said Benitez, whose decision to install Moussa Sissko – the man-of-the-match here – as captain has proven to be inspired. The Spaniard said he hoped that Newcastle had used up their quota of bad luck, having conceded to Sergio Aguero’s 100th Premier League goal which should have been ruled out for offside.
Benitez was determined not to turn an encouraging performance into a controversy – stating that “hopefully we will not have bad decisions in the rest of the games. That incident could have been the spark that fired them up.” In fact, Newcastle seemed too devastated by the 14th minute goal to complain.
The night was also significant for the stadium’s recognition of Benitez as a manager they have clearly taken to heart. His name was being sung from all corner of the ground by the end, by supporters desperate for the club to avoid the drop and thus keep him as manager.
“Every single tackle we had the fans behind,” Benitez said. “It was really important. I think everybody can see that it was very positive for the next game. We need the fans with us – it’s crucial if we’re going to stay up. The result could be better, but it could be worse. We were playing against a team that is in the semi-final of the Champions League and in the top four of the Premier League.”
Benitez said the challenge must be to “win every game,” with a visit to his spiritual home of Anfield at the weekend. “My connection with Liverpool is good, but hopefully they will do well in the Europa League and we will get three points in the Premier League,” he said
City manager Manuel Pellegrini said that the exertions of Saturday’s 3-0 win at Chelsea lay behind another game in which the side curiously lacked competitiveness. “Maybe we could not recover so soon after three days to have the same pace that we had against Chelsea,” he said. “It’s not a good result. We had some options in the second half to score the second goal but we didn’t play well and so I think the draw is what happened during the 90 minutes.”
Pellegrini said he hoped to have Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Samir Nasri on contention for Saturday’s home game with Stoke City, as he needs to preserve players for the Champions League semi-final first leg tie with Real Madrid the following Tuesday.