Rafael Benitez believes Newcastle United’s battling display against Manchester City proved they can beat the drop into the Championship.
Struggling Newcastle went behind early on in Tuesday’s match at St James’ Park when Sergio Aguero nodded home his 100th Premier League goal from an offside position.
Having lost 6-1 at the Etihad Stadium in the reverse fixture – when Aguero scored five in the latest of 12-straight top-flight defeats to City – it would have been easy for the Magpies to fold.
But they displayed impressive resolve to equalise before the break courtesy of a rare Vurnon Anita strike.
And although a point was not enough to move Benitez’s side up from 19th place in the table, the Spaniard was full of praise for the way they responded to the setback of conceding a goal that should have been disallowed.
“I’m really pleased because of the reaction of the players – the way we were fighting, the passion, the commitment, the connection with the fans,” Benitez told his post-match media conference.
“Everything was so positive today, so it’s just a pity we couldn’t score the second goal.
“When you play against a team like Manchester City, they are so good, and I knew about the bad record against them, that maybe everybody was expecting something worse, but after conceding a goal that everybody says was offside – I haven’t seen the replay – the reaction was so good.
“That is the main thing to see the team with this belief and this fight, you have to be optimistic for the rest of the games.”
When asked specifically about the officials’ decision to allow Aguero’s goal, Benitez was philosophical and refused to blame the referee’s assistant.
He added: “You cannot change things that have happened. Hopefully we won’t have bad decisions in the next games.”