Rafa Benitez

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The 2 Robbies: Rafa, Newcastle frustrate Liverpool in draw

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle discuss the major talking points from today’s action, including Arsenal cruising to a win against Brighton & Hove Albion (01:45), the mounting pressure on Ronald Koeman (10:50) and Rafa Benitez holding his former club to a draw adding to Jurgen Klopp‘s frustrations (19:35).

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Benitez hails “fantastic” draw, Newcastle and Liverpool fans

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Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez isn’t the sort of guy who’s going to gush after a home draw against a better side, but he came close following the Magpies’ 1-1 stalemate with his former club Liverpool on Sunday.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things from JPW ]

“When you get just one point at home we cannot be happy but against a top six like Liverpool, creating so many chances, you have to be a little bit happy,” Benitez said. “The way our players were working, tackling and trying to win every ball was fantastic.”

Okay, so clearly Benitez, a European champion, isn’t going to admit that his newly-promoted side should be fairly proud of its day on the home pitch.

As for his longtime love affair with Liverpool — Benitez even invited the leader of the Hillsborough inquest to be his guest of honor — the Spanish manager says he hopes to develop a similar vibe with the Tynesiders.

“Obviously my relationship with the Liverpool fans is very good. My relationship with Liverpool fans comes from years, here it is a fantastic relationship too and I am enjoying every minute.”

Despite losing at Huddersfield Town and Brighton, Newcastle has 10 points and three wins to start new life in the Premier League. Benitez has done it without the transfer backing he wanted this summer and Newcastle supporters will be hoping the rumored takeover bids are a reality to see what the “Rafalution” can become on Tyneside.

Newcastle United 1-1 Liverpool: Rafa frustrates former club

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Rafa Benitez took a point from his old pals Liverpool as the favorite Reds drew Newcastle United 1-1 on Sunday at St. James Park.

Liverpool rises seventh with 12 points, while Newcastle sits ninth with 10.

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Rafa remembered his Liverpool roots, and there was certainly a pro-Benitez buzz from all four corners of the stadium ahead of the match.

Mohamed Salah led a lightning counter and sprung Sadio Mane on goal with a fantastic pass, but Magpies keeper Rob Elliot ended up rescuing the ball after several bobbles through the 18.

Ex-Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey was back in Newcastle United’s lineup, and curled an early shot from outside the 18 into the arms of Simon Mignolet.

Shelvey cued Matt Ritchie up for a left-footed shot that wasn’t much of a problem for Mignolet.

The Reds grew into the game, and their fine attackers looked a cut above the Magpies back line (though Jamaal Lascelles stood tall at the back).

Liverpool’s mysterious finishing problems continued on a 23rd minute corner, with a post hit, a point-blank chance missed, and two more attempts off the mark.

But then, oh my, Coutinho. Given some room by Shelvey, Coutinho moved to his right and curled a near post shot past a flying Elliot and into the top corner.

Yet Newcastle leveled the score thanks to an outstanding through ball

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A Ciaran Clark error gave Sturridge an amazing chance that Elliot saved, and Salah put the rebound well over the goal.

Liverpool dodged a bullet when Sadio Mane’s raking of a boot on Joselu went unheeded, and then another when Joe Gomez just saw yellow after clattering into Christian Atsu.

The Magpies had a decent series of chances around the hour mark, but couldn’t quite orchestrate a quality final shot.

Jurgen Klopp attacked the game by tossing on Dominic Solanke and Roberto Firmino, while Newcastle’s introduction of Isaac Hayden showed a desire to see out a point.

Still 1-1 in the 84th minute, Klopp injected Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The high-priced midfielder headed an Alberto Moreno cross over the frame in the 88th minute.

Dejan Lovren partially blocked a Mohamed Diame shot off a late corner.

Benitez points to Liverpool defense as deficient

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Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has likened the Liverpool defense as a necessary deficiency with their prolific attack.

Benitez says that the Magpies will need to keep up with Liverpool when they host the Reds at St. James Park on Saturday. The Spaniard pointed to the Reds defense that has conceded 11 league goals this season, two off the league-worst number.

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“The reality is that because they are so offensive, they have sometimes problems in defense,” Benitez said in his pre-match press conference. “I have talked in the past about the short blanket – if you cover your head, your feet are cold; if you cover your feet, your head is cold. Sometimes when you attack too much, you are exposed in defense and to find the balance is the key to have chances to win titles. I think they are working on that and still I think they will be very dangerous attacking even if they make some mistakes in defense.”

Despite conceding 11 goals in six Premier League matches, the Reds do have a pair of clean sheets, coming back-to-back against Crystal Palace and Arsenal. The defense has struggled at times, but the number is inflated by the 5-0 debacle against Manchester City in early September.

On the other end, Liverpool has scored 12 goals this season, with nine more in four Champions League matches.

Benitez did address his previous time at Liverpool, saying it’s not a distraction as he takes on his former club.

“I have a lot of positive relationships with the fans, so I have very good memories and it will be very emotional. But at the same time, we’ll try our best and we will try to win.”

Newcastle’s Rafa ready for special visit from old pals Liverpool

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Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez is a Liverpool legend, and expects some anxious feelings when the Reds visit St. James Park on Sunday.’s

[ MORE: Dele gets England suspension ]

Current Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp had mostly glowing things to say about Benitez earlier Friday, and Benitez issued similar vibes.

While the Reds aren’t wearing, well, red — that’ll come March 3 at Anfield — Benitez admits it’s going to be wild seeing Liverpool as his opposition.

“It’s a special game for me. It will be emotional. At the same time, we will try our best and will try to win. My family still lives (on Merseyside) and there are a lot of connections. I have to focus on Newcastle United.

“The fans and the cities have a lot of similarities. The accent is hard – both the Scouse and Geordie accents… I’m very bad at both.”

The bad news for Newcastle? Liverpool has been defying the odds by not converting myriad quality scoring chances, and statistically feels due for a big day. Sunday could be it, to Rafa’s double chagrin.