RAFA WIN

New­cas­tle ........ 2 Stoke ........ 1 Ben­itez re­cov­ery com­plete as Las­celles heads win­ner for sec­ond week in a row

Daily Star Sunday - - RESULT! -

RAFA BEN­ITEZ was back in busi­ness – and it looks like his New­cas­tle side are too.

He was in the dugout af­ter be­ing forced to miss the 1-0 win at Swansea a week ago due to com­pli­ca­tions from her­nia surgery.

But Ben­itez kept a low pro­file on his re­turn, largely con­tent­ing him­self with a seat on the bench as as­sis­tant Mikel An­tia did most of the work in the tech­ni­cal area.

He popped out, though, af­ter both New­cas­tle goals as re­ju­ve­nated Toon made it three straight wins thanks to skip­per Ja­maal Las­celles – af­ter they had started the sea­son with a trio of de­feats in league and cup.

They took a 19th-minute lead af­ter Matt Ritchie – by his own ad­mis­sion lucky not to be sent off for a Sa­dio Mane-style high boot on Swansea de­fender Al­fie Maw­son – pro­duced some­thing more cul­tured this time.

The Scot­land winger de­liv­ered a right-wing cross with his left foot and Christian Atsu raced in at the far post, beat­ing Mame Bi­ram Diouf to power the ball past keeper Jack But­land.

It was the winger’s first Pre­mier League goal and New­cas­tle would have been out of sight had for­mer Stoke striker Joselu not spurned a hat-trick of chances be­fore Xher­dan Shaqiri lev­elled in the 57th minute.

But cen­tral de­fender Las­celles, who headed the win­ner from a Ritchie cor­ner at Swansea, did the same again af­ter 68 min­utes to re­store the gap.

New­cas­tle came close to a sec­ond goal within three min­utes of Atsu’s opener and Ritchie was once more the provider with a right-wing cor­ner that Las­celles glanced wide.

But Shaqiri gave the home side a scare mo­ments later with a crafty right-wing curler that goal­keeper Rob El­liot had to claw away at full stretch.

Stoke cen­tre-back Kurt Zouma zoomed a thun­der­ing shot wide be­fore El­liot had to parry an ef­fort from Eric Maxim Choupo-Mot­ing.

But Mark Hughes’ men struck when Shaqiri clev­erly threaded the ball into the far cor­ner from around 25 yards.

Ay­oze Perez had the ball in the net for New­cas­tle but was flagged off­side be­fore El­liot brought off a bril­liant save from Diouf ’s header af­ter Shaqiri had sup­plied the left-wing ball.

New­cas­tle were seething in the 65th minute when Perez played the ball in for Atsu who went down in the penalty area un­der Zouma’s chal­lenge. Ref

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