Fightback leaves Rafa confident of staying up

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez was encouraged by the spirit shown by his side at Anfield as the Magpies bid to avoid relegation.
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez was encouraged by the spirit shown by his side at Anfield as the Magpies bid to avoid relegation. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Rafael Benitez believes Newcastle United's recovery from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Liverpool on Saturday showed his players possess the spirit and character needed to secure the club's Premier League status.

Newcastle ended a run of nine consecutive league defeats away from home to earn their first point on the road since December 13 after a stirring fightback.

It was perhaps fitting that Benitez had earlier received a rapturous reception on his return to Anfield, where he remains a hero to Liverpool fans for conjuring the "Miracle of Istanbul" in 2005.

Benitez's Liverpool came from three down to draw 3-3 against AC Milan and eventually lift the Champions League trophy after a penalty shootout. The Spaniard inspired another crucial comeback, this time from the away team's dugout.

Newcastle trailed 0-2 at the interval, with an early strike from Daniel Sturridge and a curler from Adam Lallana appearing to set Liverpool on course for a fifth straight win in all competitions. But goals from Papiss Cisse and Jack Colback sealed an encouraging second-half response.

The Magpies even had two counter-attacks late on to win the game.

The draw took Newcastle to within a point of fourth-bottom Norwich City and Benitez insisted an escape is possible with only three matches remaining.

"Yes, I think we can stay up," said the Newcastle manager. "It depends on the other teams too but if we can fight with this spirit we can do it. When we arrived we (played) Leicester, who were top. We did well but we lost.

"We had a good performance at Norwich but not at Southampton and we needed to show character today and the belief we showed against Swansea and Manchester City.

"We did it late but we did it. That's the positive thing. They gave a reaction when we needed one and know what we had to do if we want to stay up. They are working hard, training really well and they are getting confidence."

"When you are 1-0 down away they don't have confidence but they showed they have that and passion today."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2016, with the headline 'Fightback leaves Rafa confident of staying up'. Print Edition | Subscribe