Rafa Benitez admits his beaten Newcastle side had a ‘wake-up call’ at Fulham

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez leaves the pitch dejected after the final whistle

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez leaves the pitch dejected after the final whistle

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Rafa Benitez has labelled Newcastle United’s season-opening defeat as a “wake-up call”.

Benitez’s side were beaten 1-0 by Fulham at Craven Cottage, Matt Smith’s first-half header decided the Championship game.

We didn’t play at the level we were expecting

RAFA BENITEZ

United should have had a penalty before Smith lost his marker to head a corner past goalkeeper Matz Sels.

But Newcastle manager Benitez felt his team had only themselves to blame.

“We didn’t play at the level we were expecting,” said Benitez, whose side take on Huddersfield at St James’s Park a week today.

“We were not keeping the ball in attack. We didn’t win the second balls. We have to improve, and this game is a wake-up call for everyone.

“You could see when we were losing 1-0 we had anxiety, we had to manage the ball much better and play with the ideas we wanted to do.

“We didn’t concentrate like we have to, especially when you are losing you need to be calm and do things much better.

“I know the competition, the team, the expectations were there that we would come and win, but we said they were a good team and we had to be ready.”

Fulham were better across the pitch that an edgy and nervous United side which was backed by 7,000 travelling fans.

Benitez knows that every opponent this season will raise their game against Newcastle, the bookmakers’ favourites to win the division.

And his players found out at Craven Cottage just how hard it will be to get out of the Championship this season.

“We knew and we said before that that it would be like this,” said Benitez, whose side struggled to defend set-pieces in pre-season.

“When they are on the pitch, they have to realise this could happen. We conceded this goal, and we have worked on this during the week. We have to react and we have to get better.

“More than (making) signings, we have to keep working.

“We need something a little bit more, and especially in terms of working we have to realise we will be working more.

“Some of the players knew what it will be like. We need to manage the situation better.

“When you are bringing players in, and players are leaving, it is always difficult but we have to manage the situation better.”