Rafa Benitez refuses to use refereeing blunder as excuse for Newcastle defeat

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez refused to blame referee Simon Hooper for Newcastle United’s defeat at Craven Cottage.

Fulham beat Benitez’s side 1-0 in last night’s season-opener thanks to a first-half goal from Matt Smith.

The first one was clear. We have talked about that. It was clear.


But Wiltshire official Hooper missed a handball in the box from Ryan Tunnicliffe 10 minutes earlier.

Tunnicliffe stopped a cross from Matt Ritchie with his arm, but Hooper didn’t penalise the midfielder.

There was another penalty call late in the match when a Ritchie shot struck Tomas Kalas on the arm.

United manager Benitez felt the first incident was a “clear” penalty, but he refused to use it as an excuse.

Asked about the penalty calls, Benitez said: “The first one was clear. We have talked about that. It was clear.

“It was not given, but we had to carry on and I will not make an excuse.”

“We were not keeping the ball properly, this is clear. We didn’t win the second balls in the middle, and that is what we have to address.”

Newcastle struggled with and without the ball at Craven Cottage, and the ease with which Smith lost his marker for his goal underlined the work Benitez needs to do with a defence which proved vulnerable to set-pieces in pre-season.

Benitez, now focused on the home game against Huddersfield Town a week today, struggled to take any positives out of the match.

“The only positive is that it is the beginning of the season and we have to make sure we are ready for the next game,” he said.

“We need to improve a lot of things. Everybody has realised it can’t be like this for the rest of the season.”