Rafa Benitez has told his Newcastle United players to keep calm and carry on.
Benitez’s side were held to a 1-1 draw by Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park yesterday, moving them a point clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone ahead of this Sunday’s home game against Manchester United.
A second-half penalty from Luka Milivojevic cancelled out Mohamed Diame’s 22nd-minute opener for the Magpies.
Newcastle had had the better of the first half, but Roy Hodgson’s team went on to dominate the game after Milivojevic scored from the spot.
Manager Benitez said: “We got an extra point, so we cannot say it’s negative.
“We have to stay calm and be sure that we do what we have to do in order to fight and have more chances to win games.
“We’re learning. It’s a learning process, but still we’re playing against good players. (Wilfried) Zaha can dribble, you know he can, but still he can do it even if you know.
“Then we’re trying to manage and do things. But the togetherness of the team’s important.”
Benitez didn’t believe Ciaran Clark’s pull on Christian Benteke’s shirt should have been penalised with a penalty. “You see it a lot,” said Benitez. “It’s difficult to say it wasn’t (a pull) – I cannot say it wasn’t – but also he was pushing my player. The other side will say clear penalty, I will say not.”
Wilfried Zaha created problems for United with his pace and movement.
“In the first half he was playing as a striker,” said Benitez. “In the second half he went on the wing. (DeAndre) Yedlin at full-back could deal with the balls in behind, but when Zaha got the ball in to feet he did well. Defensively the players did well.”
Newcastle, without new signing Islam Slimani, couldn’t add to their advantage before the break. And, overall, Benitez felt it was a “fair” result.
“In the first half, we were in control and doing well,” said Benitez.
“We had another chance to score the second goal.
“In the second half, the counter-attack made a big difference. If you don’t score the second goal, then you’re under pressure and you have to defend.
“I was happy with how we were defending against very good strikers. It could be better, but it could be worse.
“It’s one point in the end, and, more or less, that’s fair.”
One positive for Benitez was the way his team defended in the latter stages when Palace laid siegge to Karl Darlow’s goal.
Benitez’s players made a series of blocks and tackles in and around their box.
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Fosu-Mensah, Kelly (Sakho 45), Tomkins, Van Aanholt, Townsend, Milivojevic, Cabaye, McArthur, Zaha, Benteke. Subs Not Used: Ward, Sorloth, Lee, Souare, Henry, Riedewald. Booked: Fosu-Mensah. Goal: Milivojevic 55 pen
Newcastle: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame (Hayden 65), Kenedy (Atsu 57), Perez (Merino 80), Gayle. Subs Not Used: Dubravka, Murphy, Manquillo, Lejeune. Booked: Dummett. Goal: Diame 22
Ref: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).