Christian Atsu gives Newcastle boss a headache with display

Christian Atsu is congratulated on his goal
Christian Atsu is congratulated on his goal

Christian Atsu’s hoping he’s given Rafa Benitez a selection headache at Newcastle United.

Atsu scored a stunning winner for the club on his full debut against Rotherham United on Saturday.

Sometimes you have to give the coach a headache when he makes his selection.

The winger’s stunning goal gave the club a hard-fought 1-0 win at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Atsu only found out he was playing 90 minutes before kick-off time.

United manager surprisingly left in-form Matt Ritchie out of his starting XI ahead of the international break.

And Atsu, signed from Chelsea last month on a season-long loan, was determined to take his unexpected opportunity.

“I was waiting for my time,” said the 24-year-old.

“I knew I would have my opportunity.

“I was more focused on training to keep myself fit. I knew, for sure, that he would give me a chance.

“He will give everybody a chance.

“Sometimes you have to give the coach a headache when he makes his selection.

“Each day I try to work hard for Newcastle. I want the team to win. This is more important.

“I want to help the team most, and to help the team you have to be on the pitch.

“I want to play with all my heart.”

Jonjo Shelvey found Atsu to the right of the Rotherham box.

The Ghana international cut inside on to his favoured left foot and curled a shot beyond a helpless Lee Camp in the Rotherham goal.

Atsu said: “That’s what I want to do ... always be on the right side, and when I cut to my left (foot) I can shoot. It was a great goal. I wanted to score, and I scored.”

Third-placed Newcastle are three points behind league leaders Huddersfield Town, who, along with Norwich City, in second place, also won on Saturday in the fiercely-competitive division.

“I’m very happy to be in the scoresheet, but I’m most happy that the won,” said Atsu.

“For me, that is the most important thing.

“I think it’s very difficult to win here.

“It’s not easy, it’s really difficult to win here.

“They were good at set-pieces, but we defended really well under pressure.

“Sometimes, a goal can make a difference, and when we scored, we were much more calm. It was very important.”

Atsu had made four substitute appearances for the club ahead of the visit to Rotherham.

“It’s only the last minute I found out I was going to play,” he said.

“I was very happy to start for Newcastle.

“I’m hoping and working hard in training. We have a lot of competition in this team, so when you have the opportunity, I think you have to take it.

“Each and every day, you have to keep working hard.”

Meanwhile, United manager Benitez did his homework on Atsu, who has had a series of loan spells since arriving at Stamford Bridge in 2013 from Porto in a £3.5million deal.

Benitez spoke to contacts at Malaga – where he spent the second half of last season – and former club Chelsea.

“Christian scored similar goals in the training sessions, so to see him score this goal in an official game is really pleasing,” he said.

“I’m really pleased for him, because it means he’s worked really hard, and you have this kind of situation which pleased me even more.

“It was a great goal from a player who has been doing it in training, and you are hoping he can do it in games too. It was a fantastic goal.

“We did a lot of research on him before we brought him here, and my information from Spain was really positive, really good.

“When I spoke to people at Chelsea, they were telling me that he’s a nice lad, and from what I have seen he is a good professional, working hard every day.”