Rafa Benitez reacts after Newcastle go No 1 for Christmas

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

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Rafa Benitez hailed his Newcastle United side after they claimed top spot at Christmas.

Benitez's team went four points clear at the top of the Championship after beating Burton Albion 2-1 this afternoon.

Dwight Gayle and Mohamed Diame were on target at the Pirelli Stadium, where Newcastle had to withstand long spells of pressure from the home side.

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"We said before it would be difficult," said Benitez. "We were working so hard in the second half to defend. We have to give credit to them because they were pushing.

"I was pleased with the attitude of the players, the teamwork and the character they showed."

Second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion could close the gap with a win over Birmingham City this evening.

But whatever the result at St Andrew's, United will lead the division on Christmas Day.

"I prefer to be top of the table in May, but we're in a good position and we have some time to prepare for the next game," said Benitez.

Meanwhile, Burton manager Nigel Clough felt his team had deserved something from the game.

Clough said: "There were a couple of errors that lead up to their goals, but, other than that, I thought we were fantastic.

"We deserved at least a point today."