Rafa Benitez hails record-breaking Newcastle United as title hopes are still alive

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez.
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez.

Rafa Benitez hailed his Newcastle United players after they ended an eventful week on a high by claiming a club-record 14th away win of the season.

Benitez’s side beat Cardiff City 2-0 last night to beat the record set by Kevin Keegan’s promotion-winning side in 1992-93.

The result saw Newcastle, promoted on Monday, move within a point of Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion, who take on Bristol City this evening.

Asked about the record, Benitez said: “I’m really pleased, because I think the players were doing so well all season, especially away, that it was a pity not to have broken the record before.

“To do it today after the promotion and be closer to Brighton is quite positive for everyone.”

United secured promotion at the start of the week with a 4-1 win over Preston North End, but the club hit the headlines again in midweek after a raid on St James’s Park, and the training ground, by officers from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs investigating a suspected tax fraud.

Benitez, however, felt his players kept their focus throughout the week.

“After promotion we gave them a day off,” said Benitez. “During the week they were training well. I think they were quite focused.

“You could see, especially in the second half, that we played very good football.”

Chris Hughton’s Brighton need to win to claim the title.

“Something that they have is experience,” said Benitez.

“We did our job. We’re happy with that. Also, when you play away, always it’s good for your fans if you can win, and especially if it’s a long, long trip.

“I think that the fans were delighted and hopefully they can go back even happier.”

The breakthrough came in the 55th minute after Atsu was bundled over just outside the home box.

Christian Atsu stepped up and lifted the resulting free-kick over the wall and past a static McGregor.

Isaac Hayden put United further ahead with a left-footed shot from outside the box in the 65th minute.

They couldn’t conjure up a third goal, but it didn’t matter. The game was won.

And the title is still there to be won – or lost.