Rafa won’t hit panic but­ton as Toon slide into Gul­lit ter­ri­tory

Daily Star Sunday - - RESULT! - IAN MURTAGH

home de­fence for the first time. But in­stead of squar­ing the ball to the un­marked Aubameyang, he shot over.

Ear­lier, there were ironic cheers when Cech fluffed a clear­ance, slic­ing a back-pass from Shko­dran Mustafi out for a cor­ner. But the vet­eran keeper had lit­tle to do be­fore the break.

How­ever New­cas­tle did have mo­ments of their own.

Stop­per Ja­maal

Las­celles, un­der the gaze of

Eng­land coach Gareth

South­gate, had a pow­er­ful header cleared.

But he was then forced off with a twisted an­kle at half-time.

And when Mustafi slipped as a long up-and-un­der dropped Ja­cob Murphy was away un­til Sokratis res­cued his team-mate with a fine sav­ing tackle.

But once Xhaka’s 30-yard free-kick flew home past keeper Martin Dubravka, the die was cast with New­cas­tle lack­ing both the qual­ity and the con­fi­dence to hit back – un­til it was too late. The Swiss star turned provider for Ar­se­nal’s sec­ond with a pull-back into the path of La­cazette. Though his snap-shot was bril­liantly blocked by Fer­nan­dez it came out to Ozil who side-footed the ball grate­fully into the net. RAFA BEN­ITEZ has urged the Toon Army not to panic de­spite New­cas­tle equalling their worst start in Premier League history.

Not since Ruud Gul­lit’s dis­as­trous spell as man­ager 19 years ago have the Ge­ordies picked up just one point from their open­ing five league games.

The Dutch­man was sacked in Septem­ber 1999 but Ben­itez is con­vinced bet­ter times lie ahead for his side. New­cas­tle were handed the fix­ture list from hell with four of their open­ing five games against the elite – Ar­se­nal fol­lowed in the foot­steps of Tot­ten­ham, Chelsea and Manch­ester City, win­ning by the same 2-1 score­line. And Ben­itez be­lieves the qual­ity of op­po­si­tion has been be­hind the Toon’s night­mare start.

He said: “It’s a dif­fi­cult time be­cause you have to win games.

“We were not ex­pected to win against the top sides but each time we lost by a small mar­gin.

“I’m not con­cerned. I know my team.

“I think the fans can see the pic­ture.

“To lose in this match is some­thing ev­ery­one could ex­pect but still we are not happy with that for sure. “It’s some­thing we have to man­age now and keep the con­fi­dence and keep work­ing.” Hun­dreds of fans gath­ered out­side the Sports Di­rect-run club shop at St James’ Park be­fore kick-off to protest against Mike Ash­ley.

They re­main right be­hind Ben­itez, who ad­mits he has to con­cen­trate on haul­ing his side out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone

“To be fair, I’m more con­cerned about the mar­gin we have seen against the top sides than los­ing these games,” he added. “Ar­se­nal had two shots on tar­get and they scored two goals. That is the dif­fer­ence in the end.”

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