The Magpies played out a dull stalemate at St. James’ Park, handing Claudio Ranieri’s men their first clean sheet of the season
Rafael Benitez was disappointed with aspects of Newcastle United’s performance in the 0-0 home Premier League draw with Fulham, but questioned whether his side should have been rated as big favourites.
Newcastle failed to register a shot on target for a game they were widely tipped to win against Claudio Ranieri’s bottom-of-the-table visitors, who kept their first clean sheet of the season.
Benitez felt it was a “tense” atmosphere with his players expected to triumph, but was keen to point out Fulham’s quality as well as the fact his team are collecting consistent points, 15 having been earned from their last nine matches.
“Sometimes it can be tense at home, when they say you have to win the game, but Fulham spent a lot of money in the summer,” he said to BBC Sport.
“They are bottom but have a good team. They are organised, they had five at the back and were dangerous on the counter-attack.
“It’s disappointing because we were expected to get the three points, but now we’ve taken four points from two games. It’s not ideal but we are getting points.”
Newcastle extended their advantage over the bottom three to five points despite the poor display, Aleksandar Mitrovic coming closest to scoring by forcing a dramatic last-ditch block from Jamaal Lascelles with two minutes left.
Benitez added: “During the game I was not happy with some situations and decisions. The worst thing is that, in a game we could win, where we were pushing and had control, we could have lost it in the last counter-attack.
“It’s good that we didn’t lose but the negative is that we gave Fulham those situations to score and were a bit lucky in the end.”
Ranieri, meanwhile, hailed a key step as Fulham finally kept one of their opponents out after switching to a back five.
“It is very important for us,” he said. “First half maybe we created more play and had possession well, but they had a very big chance.
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“Second half we lost control and they were dangerous, but we had four or five chances on the counter-attack, so at the end I’m happy because every point we achieve is good.
“It’s the first time I’ve tried to play with three centre-backs and the players responded well. They were very solid against a physical team.”
Alfie Mawson, one of the three centre-backs, was glad to get a clean sheet in the bag.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “We were very resilient, especially in the second half.
“We’ve been working hard defensively all week and now we can build on that. Hopefully it’s the start of something good. We haven’t been good enough but since the gaffer’s come on we’ve been improving.”