Football: Fulham hand Newcastle 1-0 defeat in Championship opener

Fulham's Scott Malone takes a shot at the goal during a match against Newcastle on Aug 5, 2016.
Fulham's Scott Malone takes a shot at the goal during a match against Newcastle on Aug 5, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Rafa Benitez's relegated Newcastle United started life in the Championship (second tier) with a 0-1 loss to Fulham in the first match of the English league season on Friday.

Fulham scored the winner on the stroke of half-time when Matt Smith rose above a flat-footed defence to power a header into the net from a corner.

Newcastle, generally second-best, had two penalty appeals turned down.

Fulham's Ryan Tunnicliffe appeared to handle a shot from Matt Ritchie in the 35th minute but the referee waved play on with replays suggesting he could have awarded a penalty.

Another penalty appeal by Newcastle for handball two minutes from time was also rejected, again after a shot from midfielder Ritchie.

Fulham looked more comfortable in a division they have played in for the last two seasons, whereas Newcastle will need to adjust fast if they are to bounce straight back into the Premier League.