Jamaal Lascelles delivers strong response to boos aimed at Rafa Benitez
Jamaal Lascelles has leapt to the defence of Rafa Benitez '“ after Newcastle United hit rock bottom.
The club is propping up the Premier League after a winless start to the season.
Brighton and Hove Albion condemned inflicted a fifth home defeat on Benitez’s side at St James’s Park on Saturday in front of owner Mike Ashley.
There were some boos when Benitez replaced Yoshinori Muto with Joselu in the second half.
And the final whistle was greeted with more boos from frustrated fans.
Lascelles, however, says Benitez can’t be questioned.
“I don’t think anyone in the stadium can question the manager about anything,” said United’s captain.
“Whether it’s to do with substitutions, tactics or whatever – they can’t question the manager, because he knows football better than anyone in this whole stadium.
“People might say he should have brought this or that player on, but he’s done it at the top level and won trophies, so he knows.
“He wants us to play a certain way, and if we can’t do that as players, it’s down to us. But the gaffer can only deal with what he’s got.
“As players we’ve got to take responsibility ourselves. We cross the white line and so it’s down to us.
“We have to get together and talk about it, because we need to be more clinical in the box.”
Newcastle dominated the game and had 27 shots, six of which were on target.
Beram Kayal diverted a shot from Jose Izquierdo past Martin Dubravka in the 29th minute.
United pressed for an equaliser in the second half, but came up short in the final third of the pitch.
“It’s definitely frustrating for us as players,” said Lascelles.
“They didn’t have much more other than the goal they scored from a corner which should have been a goal kick.
“We had all the chances. They had one chance, and had all three points.
“We should have defended the corner better, but we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place.
“In pretty much every game we’ve played, bar Leicester, we’ve played some decent football and things haven’t gone our way.
“One result, one win, and we can really start our season properly.
“It’s just working out how we do that, because at the moment, we’re a little way off that.
“There’s no reason to panic. We have loads of positives to take from that game, like all the chances we created.”
United – who face Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday – played five of last season’s top six in their first eight games.
“Everybody knew we had a tough start,” said defender Lascelles. “We’ve played five of the top teams. Those games were always going to be difficult, but we should have done better against Brighton.
“Leicester were champions a couple of years ago, and that was a difficult game.
“We’ve had some really tough home games, but we have to stick together, keep going and take all the positives we can into Southampton next week. We have to get something from that game.
“We’ve played Southampton before and done quite well against them. In the Premier League, it’s about who turns up on the day.
“We have to rediscover the mentality we had last year and take it into that game.”
Lascelles doesn’t see any parallels with the club’s last relegation season.
“The season where we did get relegated, I don’t want to talk about because we’re way off that, but the feeling then was completely different to how it is now,” said the 24-year-old.
“We’ve got a squad of players who care, and it hurts them when we lose. They aren’t players who aren’t bothered – that’s the difference.
“We will keep going, and soon we’ll start our season properly. We’re playing good football, it’s just not happening for us. That will change.
“Everybody is looking at each other, trying to find the answer.
“We don’t quite have it at the moment. But we have to stay together as a team, do the fundamentals right in training, listen to the manager, and next time we have a chance to win a game, grab it with both hands.
“People are just waiting for someone to win a game for us and it will happen. There’s no panic – it’s just about getting that first win.”