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Benitez's Newcastle lose 1-0 at Fulham in Championship opener

Fulham looked more comfortable in a division they have played in for the last two seasons but Newcastle need to adjust fast if they are to bounce straight back to the Premier League. In photo: Fulham's Matt Smith scores their first goal. Photograph: (Reuters)

Reuters London, United Kingdom Aug 06, 2016, 04.48 AM (IST)
Rafa Benitez got his first bitter taste of life in the Championship (second tier) as his relegated Newcastle United side suffered a 1-0 defeat at Fulham in the first match of the English league season yesterday.

Fulham scored a deserved winner on the stroke of halftime when Matt Smith rose above a flat-footed defence to power home a header from a corner with Newcastle generally second best.

"It's a wake-up call. We will have games more difficult than this one," Benitez was quoted as saying by the BBC. "If we play for something more important than the first game of the season maybe the anxiety will be even higher, we need to make sure we can manage that and play better."

His side might have had better luck, though, with two penalty claims turned down.

Fulham’s Ryan Tunnicliffe appeared to handle a shot from Matt Ritchie in the 35th minute but the referee waved play on with replays suggesting he could have awarded a penalty. Benitez did not use the decision as justification for his side failing to take a point.

"It's not an excuse, we have to be better," said the former Real Madrid and Liverpool coach. "We have to trust referees, but they can make mistakes."

Another penalty appeal by Newcastle for handball by Tomas Kalas two minutes from time was also turned down, again after a shot by Scotland's former Bournemouth midfielder Ritchie, one of the signings Benitez has made to help strengthen his side.

Fulham looked more comfortable in a division they have played in for the last two seasons but Newcastle need to adjust fast if they are to bounce straight back to the Premier League.

"At the beginning we were nervous, in the second half we made the wrong decisions," added Benitez, whose team host Huddersfield Town at St James' Park next weekend.

(Reuters)
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