Rafa Benitez explains his decision to drop Matz Sels and recall Karl Darlow at Newcastle

Matz Sels
Matz Sels

Rafa Benitez has challenged Matz Sels to win the goalkeeping jersey back at Newcastle United after axing him from his team.

Sels was dropped for the midweek game against Norwich City.

Newcastle, with Karl Darlow in goal for his first Championship start of the season, won 4-3 thanks to a 96th-minute goal from Dwight Gayle.

Sels had deleted his Twitter account after being abused online by a small number of fans after last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Aston Villa.

Some supporters felt he should have done better for Villa’s late equaliser.

Benitez had to assess whether Sels was in the right frame of mind to play against in-form Norwich.

Karl Darlow

Karl Darlow

United’s manager also didn’t want any negativity inside St James’s Park over his choice of goalkeeper given the importance of the game.

And Benitez felt Darlow – who had been assured in his two EFL Cup appearances – would help “calm” his defence.

Darlow will keep his place for this afternoon’s game against Rotherham United at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.

Asked about Sels’ reaction to being dropped, Benitez said: “He’s reacted fine.

“He’s training well, and I think that he knows what to do.

“The message is very clear to all players. They have to understand that they have another team-mate who is competing to play ahead of them, and the way to react is to keep working harder, that’s it.

“He’s a good professional, and it was a difficult decision, because I like to support players who work hard, and particularly in the case of the keeper.

“He was doing well and training well. It’s not that he was making 20 mistakes and then we had to change. No, he had a lot of clean sheets, and he was doing well.

“But I had to decide because maybe we needed to be more calm out on the pitch.

“We needed to relax and not create that debate that maybe he was not good enough for the team.”

Benitez spoke to Sels ahead of the Norwich game.

He said: “Talking with him, he said he was fine, but that’s what he has to tell me.

“Then as a manager you have to have your own feeling.”

Benitez felt 25-year-old Darlow could do nothing to stop Norwich’s three goals, which included a penalty and a deflected shot.

“He conceded three goals, but still you cannot say he played badly because he could not do too much about any of them,” said Benitez.

“There was a penalty, and the last goal was a deflection, so it was difficult to say any of it was his fault.

“So he was fine in goal, and always the keeper can do a good job, but I don’t like to see my keepers doing a very good job saving a lot of things.

“But distribution, his general plan, all of it was fine.”