Newcastle still growing as a team, says Ayoze Perez

Ayoze Perez. Picture by Frank Reid
Ayoze Perez. Picture by Frank Reid
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Ayoze Perez says Newcastle United are still “growing” as a team under Rafa Benitez.

The Championship leaders claimed a point from Norwich City on a dramatic night at Carrow Road ON tUESDAY.

A late goal from captain Jamaal Lascelles saw Benitez’s side draw 2-2.

Former Tenerife star Perez had opened the scoring inside the first minute, but Newcastle gifted Norwich two first-half goals.

And the forward felt Benitez’s players showed “character” to fight back strongly after the break and claim what could prove an important point.

“We showed some character,” said Perez, who was recalled to the starting XI against the Canaries.

“It’s important, because in the past we have had a few games that we cannot even draw.

“So it’s important that we fought until the end. We had a lot of chances. We didn’t take all of them, but we’re still growing.”

Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy made late saves to deny Perez and Jonjo Shelvey.

Asked if he was disappointed that United hadn’t gone on to take all three points, Perez said: “Yes – 100%.

“We’re really disappointed, because I think we deserved the three points, but this is football. This can happen, and at least we fought until the end and got a point.”

Perez netted his eighth goal of the campaign with just 23 seconds on the clock.

“That’s quite early,” said the 23-year-old. “We knew that we had to be really focused from the kick-off, and we also like to push when we start the kick-off.

“We like to push, to put the ball there, fight for the second ball and try to play in their half. We did really well this time.

“My first touch I could score from. It was a really good start, and then two little mistakes can happen in football.

“The second half was much better. We came back, we fought, and we could have won it.”

Norwich retreated in the second half, and Benitez’s team delivered ball after ball into Ruddy’s box.

“It was quite tough – both teams did well,” said Perez. “We knew the importance of the game, and finally we drew.

“We are disappointed, because we deserved the three points, but we continue going, fighting, and that’s one less game.”

Newcastle versus Norwich has become a high-scoring fixture.

The Tynesiders, beaten 3-2 at Carrow Road late last season, came from behind to win 4-3 at St James’s Park in September.

“Last year both teams were in the Premier League, we knew it was going to be an important game because both teams are great, and that’s what you could see,” said Perez.

“We had chances for both teams, for us even more, but we didn’t take it and that’s why we didn’t get the three points.”

“Sometimes you cannot control it, especially in England. Sometimes the games gets crazy, up and down, so you have to deal with it.

“We had our chances and we didn’t take them. It’s a shame, but we have to think about Aston Villa.”

Second-placed Brighton, a point behind Newcastle, were held to a 1-1 draw by Ipswich on the same night.

“It could be important come May,” said Perez.

“In the past we didn’t win or draw these kind of games, so it’s important to get a point.

“You can see the character of the team, we came back and fought until the end and we had two last chances to win the game, but it couldn’t happen.