Rafa Benitez reveals the meticulous homework he did on Newcastle match-winner Christian Atsu

Christian Atsu
Christian Atsu

Rafa Benitez has praised Christian Atsu for his "fantastic" winner against Rotherham United.

A stunning first-half goal from Atsu gave Newcastle United a hard-fought 1-0 win at the AESSEAL New York Stadium this afternoon.

Atsu, making his full Championship debut for the club, took a pass from Jonjo Shelvey to the right side of the box before cutting inside and curling a left-footed shot past Lee Camp in the Rotherham goal.

The 24-year-old – who spent the second half of last season at Malaga – joined the club on a season-long loan from Chelsea last month.

Newcastle manager Benitez said: “It was a great goal from a player who has been doing it in training, and you are hoping he can do it in games too.

"It was a fantastic goal. He has been training really well. He has pace and mobility, and we felt that by moving the ball to wide areas he could go one-v-one against defenders."

Benitez spoke to contacts in Spain – and at former club Chelsea – before taking Ghana international Atsu on loan.

“We did a lot of research on him before we brought him here, and my information from Spain was really positive, really good," he said.

“When I spoke to people at Chelsea they were telling me that he’s a nice lad, and from what I have seen he is a good professional, working hard every day."

Basement club Rotherham made Newcastle work hard for the three points.

“We won three points and we did what we have to do," said Benitez. "The name of the opposition does not matter, you still have to try and win."

The result briefly moved Newcastle up to second place in the league, but Norwich City's 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers tonight saw the club drop back down into third place.

League leaders Huddersfield Town are three points ahead of Benitez's side.