Rafa Benitez reacts to Islam Slimani's first start for Newcastle

Rafa Benitez bemoaned Newcastle United's final ball '“ and referee Robert Madley '“ after his team's winning run was brought to an end.

Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 7:21 am
Islam Slimani

Everton won 1-0 at Goodison Park last night thanks to a second-half strike from Theo Walcott.

Newcastle remain 10th in the Premier League ahead of Saturday’s home game against West Bromwich Albion.

Benitez was frustrated that his side couldn’t play a telling pass in the final third of the pitch.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

United’s manager was also unhappy with Madley.

“Both teams we didn’t have very clear chances, but I think we could have done better with final pass in the final third,” said Benitez.

“It might have been different for us if we had. This kind of game when they are very physical, and the referee allows them to do these things, they are at home and they have quality, and they took their chance. We didn’t take our chances.

“When I talk about chances I talk about final passes too.”

On a penalty appeal for handball against Everton’s Phil Jagielka, Benitez added: “It doesn’t matter. Whatever I say will not change anything.”

Benitez changed a winning team and handed striker Islam Slimani, on loan from Leicester City, his first start for United.

However, the 29-year-old didn’t get a sight of goal at Goodison Park, where Newcastle were backed by 3,000 fans.

“Islam worked hard,” said Benitez.

“The understanding between him and the rest of the team will take some time. In terms of effort, I was happy with him.

“I say it again, we had chances. The final pass and in the final third ... we didn’t take our chances.

“That is the difference when you have Walcott or (Wayne) Rooney on these wages, they can make the difference.

“To be here, to play against this team, and to expect we have to beat them easily, is not right.

“They have very good players who can make the difference.

“We battled and we fought until the end. We had the chance to draw, maybe even win but we lost against a good team. That’s it.”

Eighth-placed Everton spent heavily last summer.

Asked about the difference between the squads at the two clubs, Benitez said: “Do the numbers.

“If you do the numbers, it’s very easy.

“The difference is they have players with experience in the Premier League.

“I don’t know how much they spent this year exactly, but it’s very simple.

“For us to come here and expect to beat them, it’s not easy.

“We have a chance, but normally when you go away against these teams, it’s not easy to get anything.

Newcastle are three points behind ninth-placed Leicester with three games left to play.

Asked if finishing in the top 10 was now the team’s goal, Benitez said: “The ambition is to win the next game.”