Rafa Benitez reacts after Aleksandar Mitrovic sends Newcastle back to top of Championship
A first-half goal from Aleksandar Mitrovic gave Benitez's team a hard-fought 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux this evening.
The result saw Newcastle go a point clear of Brighton and Hove Albion, who beat Burton Albion 4-1 at the Amex Stadium earlier in the day.
Mitrovic had been involved in a series of first-half incidents before netting his sixth goal of the season in the 44th minute.
The striker was booked early in the game for a foul on Richard Stearman, and escaped a card later in the half for a high challenge on Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.
United manager Benitez took Mitrovic off at the break to "protect" him.
"I take him out because with the pressure of the fans on top of him it was important to protect him and the team," said Benitez, whose side take on Norwich City at Carrow Road on Tuesday night.
"I'm pleased for him and the team. When a striker scores goals he’s always happy. (Daryl) Murphy was scoring goals, (Dwight) Gayle was scoring goals and Mitrovic is scoring goals, so I’m happy.
"For us, every game is important. Try to get three points, and if you can do it, then the others have to continue winning. There is still a long way, so we have to keep going. The team is defending as a unit, as a team and when you do that it is always easier to keep a clean sheet.
"They were more dangerous in the first half with some crosses, because they were winning a lot of second balls.
"When we managed this situation, we controlled it better.
"They started playing long balls for the strikers, and it was easier for our centre-backs, because they could defend long straight balls and then we were winning more second balls and had more chance to play counter attack."