Matt Ritchie acknowledged that the mood around Newcastle United has been low, but is hopeful his late winner against Manchester City can spur Rafael Benitez’s side on for the rest of the Premier League campaign.
Despite falling behind to a Sergio Aguero goal inside 25 seconds, Newcastle rallied in the second half to dent City’s title hopes – Ritchie hammering home from the spot following Salomon Rondon’s equaliser to secure a shock 2-1 win.
Tuesday’s victory lifts Newcastle into 14th position, five points clear of 18th-placed Cardiff City, who occupy the third and final relegation spot.
And with Newcastle reportedly on the verge of securing playmaker Miguel Almiron from MLS champions Atalanta United, with the potential for more new arrivals to follow in the closing days of the transfer window, Ritchie believes the club are back on the up after a second successive league win.
“The place has been low, to be honest. The players have kept believing, we keep training, keep focused,” Ritchie told BT Sport.
“It’s a fantastic result. The main thing was belief, I’m not sure many people thought we could win the game, but certainly in the dressing room we did.
“It was a kick in the teeth to concede so early. To get in at 1-0 at half-time was good. We regrouped.
“We have belief within the group that we can still have a good season.
“We beat Man United at home last season and that was the turning point, hopefully this can be the turning point this year.
“Just belief and togetherness in the group, we need the people around to believe as well. Hopefully that gives everyone hope.”
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 29, 2019
Benitez, meanwhile, echoed Ritchie’s sentiments, expressing his pride at a performance which has handed his former club Liverpool a potentially huge boost in the title race.
“A great effort from everyone, to win against a team as good as Manchester City, they have everything,” Benitez told BT Sport.
“You could see until the 95th minute everyone was running and trying for each other.
“Overall I think we were defending well, that is something I’m sure everyone was expecting, and we were trying to play on the counter attack.
“Against a team that is so good with how they press and regain the ball and attack, for us to score two goals and to keep working until the end we have to be really proud.
“I have confidence the team can do well, stay up, but we have to work for each other. The fans appreciate it is not easy. All together, we can achieve what we want to achieve.”
Almiron is reported to be en route to Newcastle, with Monaco full-back Antonio Barreca and Benfica midfielder Andreas Samaris also linked, but Benitez refused to go into further detail on the potential signings.
75 & 100 – Since the start of 2017, Miguel Almirón is one of two players to have a 75% completion rate on passes ending in the final third while creating at least 100 chances (min. 400 such passes incl. playoffs). Catalyst. pic.twitter.com/fexqsNToks
— OptaJack (@OptaJack) January 29, 2019
“I knew before the game that we were trying to [make signings] but obviously I was concentrated on the game,” Bentiez added. “We can analyse those things tomorrow [Wednesday].”
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