Rafael Benitez welcomes good fortune as Newcastle beat promotion rivals Brighton

28 February 2017 11:38

Rafael Benitez felt Newcastle deserved the huge slice of luck which helped put them back in control of the Championship promotion race.

Brighton were leading the top-of-the-table showdown through Glenn Murray's controversial penalty, given after Ciaran Clark was harshly adjudged to have pulled down the striker when both appeared to be wrestling each other.

But a freak goal by Mo Diame hauled Newcastle level nine minutes from time. The midfielder unwittingly deflected the ball into the top corner after Christian Atsu miskicked a shot so badly the ball flew at a right angle away from him.

Then with a minute to go, Atsu raced down the left and crossed for substitute Ayoze Perez to secure a dramatic 2-1 victory and lift the Magpies back above Brighton at the summit.

Newcastle manager Benitez said: "It was difficult when you play against a good team and with the advantage of goal from penalty that wasn't, it was more difficult.

"A lot of things are against you, but the reaction of the team was good.

"We were creating chances and you have to be pleased with the performance of everyone, on the pitch and off the bench.

"Watching the replay of the penalty he was pushing our player, you can't give a penalty in this type of game.

"But I think we created a lot of good situations before we got a little bit lucky. And Ayoze was calm and composed for the winner."

Both teams are looking over their shoulders with third-placed Huddersfield building up a head of steam as they try to muscle in on the automatic promotion spots, and it is Benitez and Newcastle who are now breathing easier after moving two points clear of the Seagulls.

Brighton manager Chris Hughton, whose team are still six points ahead of the Terriers, admitted Diame's fluked equaliser was pivotal.

"Was it a sickener? Yes, and I don't think it was a result we deserved," he said. "I generally felt we would go on and win the game.

"I've seen the penalty and there is no doubt (Clark) has his hands all over him. The referee was in a good position to see it and he has given it, so yes I think it was a penalty.

"But then it's one of those really unfortunate goals, they happen in the game. I wondered at the time how it had gone in. But that gives Newcastle momentum going into that last period.

"I didn't think we were at our best today but I still thought we would go on to win."

Source: PA