Christian Atsu grateful to Rafa Benitez as he closes in on permanent transfer from Chelsea
Christian Atsu is determined to keep on pushing at Newcastle United as he bids to earn a permanent move to St James's Park.
The winger scored his first home goal in Saturday’s 2-1 Championship win over Cardiff City.
Newcastle ended the weekend eight points clear of third-placed Huddersfield Town.
Atsu, handed a start in place of the suspended Matt Ritchie, opened the scoring with a third-minute strike.
The 24-year-old, on a season-long loan from Chelsea, is hoping to make the move permanent after two “difficult” years.
Atsu is grateful to United manager Rafa Benitez for giving him an opportunity on Tyneside – and he hopes to keep on repaying his faith.
“I had a difficult two seasons – I wasn’t playing a lot,” said the Ghana international.
“I’m very grateful to Rafa for giving me this opportunity. I just want to keep working hard and helping the team, and we’ll see what happens.”
Newcastle manager Benitez, weighing up a permanent move for Atsu, feels he gives him a “different option”.
“We knew he was a great player and he’s working very well with us,” said Benitez.
“He can beat players, get past them and make a difference for us. He’s fast and he can beat players, and he can make the difference so I’m pleased to have this different option.”
Atsu – who netted in last month’s 1-0 win over Rotherham United – was unselfishly set up by striker Aleksandar Mitrovic for his goal.
“I’m happy that we won and also that I was on the scoresheet,” he said.
“I wanted to score at St James’s Park in front of our fans, and it was a fantastic atsmosphere.
“I’m very happy to score. The last time (against Preston in cup) I missed a lot of chances. Today I scored my first chance, though I missed another opportunity to kill the game.
“I kept my head up and kept fighting to the end.”
On Mitrovic’s assist, he added: “I thank him that he saw me. There are some strikers that like to score themselves (in that position), but he gave the ball to me.
“I’m happy. I’m always prepared, so when I get a chance I can take it.”
Yoan Gouffran doubled Newcastle’s advantage in the first half, but Benitez’s side couldn’t score a third goal and Cardiff made life difficult after the break.
Substitute Peter Whittingham set up a nervous finale with a 77th-minute strike for the visitors.
“It’s always tough in the Championship,” said Atsu. “With set-pieces they are very dangerous.
“They pressed us high in the second half, but we got the three points.”