Rafa Benitez reveals his pride at the unbreakable spirit of his Newcastle side

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez.
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez.

Rafa Benitez hailed his unbreakable Newcastle United side after they maintained their Championship charge.

The club leads the division by one point ahead of tomorrow night’s game against Norwich City at Carrow Road.

The mentality of the team, the confidence we have, and the way we are defending, is excellent

Newcastle beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 at Molineux on Saturday thanks to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s sixth goal of the season.

And United manager Benitez felt the hard-fought victory owed everything to team work.

“Everyone understands it is important to work as a team,” said Benitez.

“When we do that, it is not easy for any team to break us down.

“The mentality of the team, the confidence we have, and the way we are defending, is excellent.”

Newcastle, the Championship’s top scorers, have won 1-0 away from home three times this season.

“To be fair, we are top scorers in the league so we are not thinking about winning 1-0,” said Benitez.

“We want to have clean sheets if it is possible, but at the same time we want to score goals.

“We have to give credit to our players because they were defending well.”

Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles, left out of the starting XI the previous weekend, was outstanding in the heart of Benitez’s defence.

“I will give credit to (Grant) Hanley because he did very well the other day (against Derby County),” said Benitez.

“But we wanted to change (against Wolves), and the understanding between Jamaal and (Ciaran) Clark was very good.”

Wolves manager Paul Lambert felt Mitrovic, booked early in the game for a foul, was fortunate not to get a second yellow card for a high challenge on goalkeeper Carl Ikeme before he scored in the 44th minute.

Benitez withdrew Mitrovic at the break and replaced him with Christian Atsu.

“It was a risk,” said Benitez. “We could see the atmosphere was not ideal for him, and we needed to be sure we were protecting him and protecting the team at the same time.”

Meanwhile, the home fans booed midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who was handed a five-game ban in December after being found to have used racially-aggravated language towards Wolves player Romain Saiss in September.

“It was not an easy game for him, but I think he did well,” said Benitez.

“The team was working hard and he showed composure and a cool mind to play and keep the ball. He did a good job for the team.”