Rafa Benitez reacts after Mohamed Diame and Christian Atsu send Newcastle back to the top

Rafa Benitez hailed Mohamed Diame and Christian Atsu after they sent Newcastle United back to the top of the Championship, writes Miles Starforth.

Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 9:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th December 2016, 10:22 am
Newcastle United's Mohamed Diame celebrates scoring.

Goals from Diame and Atsu saw Benitez’s side beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 at the DW Stadium last night.

The result saw the club go a point clear of Brighton and Hove Albion ahead of Saturday’s game against Burton Albion.

Diame netted before the break, and Atsu scored after being sent on to relieve the pressure on Newcastle, who had been put under intense pressure by Wigan in the second half.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The goal capped an upturn in fortunes for summer signing Diame, who admitted he had been struggling for form last month.

United manager Benitez said: “I think that we said last week that Diame was working very hard, and I’m really pleased with the goal that he scored.

“He tries to do the things that the team needs, but at the same time he’s scoring goals. I’m really pleased for him because it is good for his confidence.

“I think that we tried to play well. The pitch wasn’t the best in terms of passing the ball on the floor, and it was difficult to control the ball. We tried to play well, and if we can, then perfect, because we will have more chances to win games.

“But if not, we have to just work hard and try to win.”

Atsu replaced a quiet Matt Ritchie midway through the second half.

Benitez said: “We needed fresh legs. We need a little bit of pace. He did it. That was the ideal situation.”

Brighton had gone top on Tuesday night after beating Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at Ewood Park.

Benitez said: “We will try (to stay top), but Brighton are obviously doing well.

“Hopefully, we can keep winning our games and then we won’t have to see what they do if we keep doing what we have to do.”

Meanwhile, Wigan manager Warren Joyce said: “We knew it would be tough before the game. I thought we gave a good account of ourselves, but we had nothing to show for it.

“There was not enough of that devilment or aggression that you need to get a goal. I think the positives we have is that I genuinely don’t think anyone has carved us open or played us off the park.”