By Marc Isaacs
LONDON (Reuters) – Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez was full of admiration for his players after they secured their first win in nine games to move out of the Premier League’s bottom three with an impressive 3-2 win at West Ham United on Saturday.
He said he had never lost faith despite their perilous position in the table and that with the attitude and spirit of his squad they can now start looking upwards after securing their first victory since Oct. 21. The victory moved Newcastle up to 15th in the table with 18 points from 19 games, easing their relegation worries, and Benitez hopes this can now transform their season.
“It is a great day for our fans and our players,” Benitez said. “We have been working hard for so many games and the way the team was fighting for every single ball and working so hard.
“We hit the bar, the post, Rob (Elliot) saved a penalty and we scored goals so there were a number of positives. We have had a bad run but it has ended,” Benitez told a news conference.
“It is difficult when you have a bad run, but we have analysed every game and could have taken something. It was important for us to win and we have been close to getting this kind of performance.
“It is important not to be in the bottom three – not just at Christmas. We had 15 points and after a bad run we were in the bottom three. Hopefully we will now have more confidence, can compete and win if we do the things well.”
Benitez had special praise for Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles who was one of the star performers and led his side to a memorable victory.
With the transfer window re-opening on Jan. 1, Benitez hopes he will be given the funds to strengthen his squad and help them move towards the top half of the table.
“You need four or five like Lascelles. They had a few big players and started putting balls into the box,” he said.
“It is not easy when they have big lads and we needed to be strong and defend well. We did the counter attack well.
“To stop Andy Carroll is not easy. The main thing was for our players to fight for every ball.”
(Reporting by Marc Isaacs; Editing by Rex Gowar)