Football

Magpies end losing run after axing five players

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez hailed his side's fighting spirit after they came back to draw 2-2 at West Brom yesterday morning (Singapore time) to end a run of four straight losses.

Benitez dropped five players - goalkeeper Rob Elliot, fullback Javier Manquillo, midfielders Jonjo Shelvey and Mo Diame, and striker Dwight Gayle - from the side that lost 3-0 at home to Watford last Saturday, and also switched from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 that they had adopted earlier in the season.

It took a while for the new-look Magpies to settle down as they trailed to goals by Hal Robson-Kanu in first-half stoppage time and Sam Field in the 56th minute, before Ciaran Clark halved the deficit three minutes later.

An own goal by West Brom's Jonny Evans seven minutes from time then saw the Magpies claim a point at The Hawthorns.

"The reaction of the team was really good," Benitez told the Northern Echo.

"We saw again that they care, they reacted, they were working very hard, and, as soon as we scored the first goal, we were back in the game.

"We could have won the game because we were in control, but it was a question of time as to whether we could create some chances. But there was not enough time to get the third goal."

Benitez also insisted that he had dropped the players merely because he wanted to rotate the squad. He said: "When you play two games in a few days, you need fresh legs.

"For everyone, they need to be sure that they will be part of the team, part of the season, and they need to know they can help the team. Now everybody knows that they can play."

The Magpies travel to Stamford Bridge to face defending champions Chelsea on Saturday and the Spaniard believes Newcastle's comeback draw against West Brom has given them a confidence boost.

"We obviously know it (taking on Chelsea) will be very difficult, but the reaction of the team means we can be positive in terms of how we approach the game," Benitez said. - WIRE SERVICES

Football