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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Rafael Benitez demands more from Newcastle despite third win a row

Having failed to triumph in any of their first 10 Premier League games, the Tynesiders are on a roll as they defeat Burnley

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez, left, and Matt Ritchie celebrate after defeating Burnley. Reuters
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez, left, and Matt Ritchie celebrate after defeating Burnley. Reuters

Rafael Benitez insisted nothing has changed despite Newcastle winning a third game in a row against Burnley to pull away from the Premier League relegation zone.

The Magpies are now four points clear of the bottom three - and three points ahead of their opponents - after early goals from defenders Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark in a 2-1 victory.

Benitez said: "It's a long running race. Now we have won three in a row.

"What does that mean? Nothing. We are happier, we have more confidence but still we have to keep winning games if we want to stay up. The same message when we were losing is the message now when we are winning."

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Sam Vokes pulled a goal back just before half-time and Burnley had several good chances to equalise, although Newcastle would have been further ahead but for an extraordinary 50th-minute miss from Matt Ritchie.

The winger met DeAndre Yedlin's cross-shot two yards out with an open goal in front of him but somehow guided the ball wide.

Ritchie told Sky Sports: "I thought I'd scored to be honest. Hopefully it doesn't make the worst Premier League misses.

"I was delighted at the end there to see that ball (Vokes' last-gasp header) go over the bar and the whistle go. It was a huge relief."

Benitez sought out Ritchie after the final whistle, and the Newcastle boss said: "I have to see the replay. We were laughing at the end because he cannot understand.

"But in the end we won and he did a great job so even missing this chance, it's not his position, so I have to congratulate everyone.

"It was a difficult game. We knew it could be tough, they are a strong team, very physical with the two strikers, wingers with pace. The three centre-backs did a great job.

"The team was pushing quite hard, we started well. It was a pity for us not to score the third goal but in the end to get three points I think is something we have to be really pleased with."

A run of six games without a win has seen Burnley slide back to within a point of the foot of the table, and boss Sean Dyche was frustrated to concede more sloppy goals but happy with the response.

He said: "A lot of the aspects of the game I was very pleased with. Certainly the amount of quality chances we created was pleasing because that's not easy to do in the Premier League. Obviously the frustration is you don't get a result.

"We need to get on the right side of margins but we also need a scratch of luck. Their first goal gets a hell of a deflection, and the second goal's a poor goal.

"We've given too many soft goals away this year, we know that, but that is getting tighter. The mentality of the game I'm very pleased with. The character of the side is coming back."