Rafa Benitez reveals how Sergio Aguero controversy helped him be optimistic about rest of season

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring

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Rafa Benitez felt his players left everything on the field at St James’s Park – and he’s backing them to take the fight to Anfield.

Newcastle United drew 1-1 with Manchester City last night to move to within two points of Premier League safety.

Benitez hailed the “reaction” of team to Sergio Aguero’s offside opening goal.

Vurnon Anita levelled in the 31st minute, and substitute Georginio Wijnaldum had a chance to take all three points for Newcastle in the 89th minute, but was denied by Joe Hart.

And United manager Benitez feels his team’s performance bodes well for the club’s final four matches, the first of which is against his former team Liverpool on Saturday.

Benitez said: “They tell me the goal was offside, but the reaction of the team was so good.

“To see them with this belief, this fight, you have to be optimistic for the rest of the games.

“I was pleased with the reaction. Hopefully, we will not have bad decisions in the next games. You have to try on the pitch and they tried.

“That incident could have got us fighting. Had they scored before that, then maybe the fans would have felt it could be another bad game.

“But every single tackle, we had the fans with us.

“That is really important, not just for this game. Everyone will say everything was positive. We want the fans to keep pushing, and that will be crucial if we want to stay up.”

Wijnaldum – who hasn’t scored since January – left St James’s Park frustrated that he had not claimed a win for his team, who have not beaten City in the league since 2005.

And Benitez said: “I am very pleased, had Gini scored that goal at the end I would have been even more pleased.

“I felt the reaction of players – they were fighting, they had commitment – and I felt the relationship with the fans – everything. It’s just a pity we didn’t get a second goal.

“Everyone knew about the record we had against them, everyone expected the worse against them.”

City qualified for the Champions League semi-finals last week, and Benitez was philosophical after the game.

“It could be better, but could it be worse,” he said. “You are playing a team in the Champions League and towards the top of the Premier League.

“They have fantastic players. Before the game, I wanted three points. After the goal, I see the reaction and think one point would be fine.”