Rafa Benitez praises summer signing after ‘important’ display

Manchester City's Kyle Walker (right) scores his side's second goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Manchester City's Kyle Walker (right) scores his side's second goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez paid tribute to Martin Dubravka – after he kept Newcastle United in Saturday’s game at the Etihad.

The goalkeeper made a superb triple save in the defeat to champions Manchester City.

Dubravka twice denied David Silva and also stopped a shot from Fernandinho in the second half.

The 29-year-old, signed on a permanent deal from Sparta Prague in the summer, quickly established himself as the club’s No 1 after arriving on loan in January.

And Benitez has hailed his contribution on and off the pitch.

“When we signed him (Dubravka), we knew we were signing a good keeper,” said Benitez.

“Not too many people knew him, but we were following him for a while and we knew he was a good keeper.

“We also knew he had a very good mentality and was a good professional.

“He has been very good in the dressing room, and in these type of games, his contribution is very important for us.

“When you have teams that are attacking so much, the keeper is the one that can give confidence to the defenders and he is doing well.”

Kyle Walker’s first goal in almost three years broke Newcastle’s dogged resilience as City returned to winning ways.

The first half resembled an attack-versus-defence training-ground exercise as the visitors regularly ceded possession to invite yet another blue wave to crash over them.

A first Premier League start for Riyad Mahrez saw the £60million summer signing drag wide an early chance but the breakthrough was not long in coming.

If Newcastle’s captain Jamaal Lascelles, restored to the starting line-up after injury, was looking to redeem himself after a reported training ground bust-up with Matt Ritchie, he failed miserably.

A horrible miscontrol saw him gift possession to Benjamin Mendy, who released Raheem Sterling outside him and the England international cut in from the left to curl a shot across Dubravka and inside the far post.

That is usually the signal for the floodgates to open, but for all their control the hosts unusually lacked a cutting edge.

Sergio Aguero, who had previously scored 14 in 11 appearances against Newcastle, whipped an effort wide from distance while Gabriel Jesus shot straight at Dubravka.

But while City, who omitted winger Leroy Sane from their matchday squad, were contemplating how to open up the visitors’ five-man defence again, they were caught napping on the half-hour.

Kenedy played in Salomon Rondon on the left and he slid a low cross into the six-yard box where DeAndre Yedlin converted from close range after a fine run.

City came out a different side after the break and within eight minutes were ahead again as Newcastle again failed to learn from allowing Sterling to cut in from the left, the England forward offloading for Aguero to tee up Walker to drill home a fierce shot.

That goal appeared to break Newcastle’s resolve as Jesus was denied by an offside flag before Dubravka made a string of saves.

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy, Fernandinho, Mahrez (Gundogan 76), Silva (Kompany 90), Sterling, Gabriel Jesus (Bernardo Silva 58), Aguero. Subs Not Used: Delph, Otamendi, Foden, Muric. Goals: Sterling 8, Walker 52.

Newcastle: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Clark (Murphy 81), Dummett, Kenedy (Atsu 54), Diame, Ki, Perez, Rondon (Joselu 73). Subs Not Used: Muto, Sterry, Darlow, Longstaff. Goals: Yedlin 30.

Att: 53,946 Ref: Kevin Friend.