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Benitez non-committal on Newcastle future, saying team needs to buy

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Rafa Benitez has earned some chatter as a Premier League Manager of the Year candidate after guiding Newcastle United to safety one years after leading them back from the Championship.

Many thought he wouldn’t follow the team down a division after rallying Newcastle but falling two points shy of safety in 2015-16, but the Magpies won the Championship and are now in position to fight for a top half finish in this season’s Premier League.

[ MORE: Mourinho rips forwards after loss ]

But owner Mike Ashley hasn’t inspired confidence in his club in some time, and struck a confusing figure when big Benitez fan Amanda Staveley tried to buy the club late last year with the aim of leading the Magpies back into the European conversation.

Now the toast of the town, Benitez holds a lot of the momentum when it comes to his position at St. James’ Park. He’s not sure what’s coming next, even with the two sides discussing a new deal, and here’s what he said when asked whether he wants to stay next season.

“That is a tricky question. I said in an interview the other day I decided to stay because of the potential, the fans and the city. Then we have to do what we have to do.”

“But if you want to go to another level, you need more quality.”

Ashley has sold many of Newcastle’s best assets dating back to James Milner and including Yohan Cabaye, Andy Carroll, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Benitez arguably would’ve had Newcastle competing for seventh if Ashley had sanctioned a striker purchase greater than the $6 million Joselu buy in August, then Islam Slimani on loan in January.

He’s coaxed career seasons out of Mohamed Diame, DeAndre Yedlin, Paul Dummett, and Kenedy (the last name on loan from Chelsea). It would be interesting to see what he’d be able to do with a nice transfer kitty.

Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle: No problems at Anfield

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  • Salah scores 32nd of season
  • Mane notches 14th
  • Reds reclaim second

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah led Liverpool to an easy-enough win in the Premier League.

This time it was a 2-0 win over Newcastle United at Anfield, sending the Reds second before Manchester United plays Crystal Palace on Monday.

Liverpool and Manchester United meet up on March 10 at Old Trafford.

Newcastle remains in the thick of the relegation race, and will play a huge six-pointer versus Southampton on March 10.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool started with heavy possession as expected, and Sadio Mane was on the doorstep to a goal within five minutes.

Mohamed Salah hammered a volley off Paul Dummett in the 12th minute as the Reds continued to knock at the door.

Salah then attempted a wild shot from an acute angle that nearly beat Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka to the near post, but the backstop tipped it wide of the goal.

A horrific giveaway by DeAndre Yedlin looked to have set Liverpool up for its opener, but Florian Lejeune closed down Salah before the Egyptian could score yet another goal.

The Magpies had a moment or two around the half hour mark, including a lashing over the goal by Dwight Gayle, who’s had a moment or two himself versus Liverpool.

Salah got his goal in the 40th minute off an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain-led break, taking his feed and potting behind Martin Dubravka.

Loris Karius made an outstanding save on Mohamed Diame at the start of stoppage time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Oxlade-Chamberlain remained a danger, and a 53rd minute break forced another timely intervention from Newcastle to thwart Roberto Firmino.

Mane soon put the Reds ahead by two, with a 56th minute goal, Firmino cueing up the Senegalese sensation for another Liverpool marker.

Aside from a Joselu penalty shout, there wasn’t much to cheer about the final 20 minutes for either side.

Crystal Palace 1-1 Newcastle United: Magpies swipe point

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  • Newcastle leads through Diame
  • Palace levels, then dominates
  • Palace with points in 13 of 15
  • Magpies host Man Utd next

Luka Milivojevic‘s second half penalty was all Crystal Palace could manage despite a dominant second half which saw them draw Newcastle United 1-1 on Sunday at Selhurst Park.

Mohamed Diame scored for Newcastle in the draw which has the Magpies in 16th, a point above the drop zone.

Palace is 14th, three points above 18th place Stoke City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Wilfried Zaha had an early chance provided by Luka Milivojevic, but Jamaal Lascelles and Newcastle backstop Karlo Darlow stopped the 2nd minute opportunity.

Jonjo Shelvey presided over a fifth minute free kick, dead center from 35 yards out, and a decent ball led to Wayne Hennessey collecting a Dwight Gayle shot.

Kenedy found Matt Ritchie in the 13th minute, but the Scot popped a tepid shot into Hennessey’s arms. The goalkeeper had to make a better save when DeAndre Yedlin‘s cross was sliced on goal by Ayoze Perez.

The Magpies went ahead through Diame after the 20 minute mark, and Palace will not enjoy the replays of Kenedy’s corner kick sailing through the 18 for the Senegalese midfielder to slot home.

Palace bungled a chance to level through Zaha, as he punched his shot off a player and out of play. It wasn’t quite Raheem Sterling’s Saturday miss at Burnley, but it was not good.

Hennessey then stopped Kenedy before making a quality flying stop on Perez.

Christian Benteke then couldn’t adapt when Darlow’s slapped save appeared near his lap in the goal mouth. It looked an awful sitter.

Cabaye cut a low shot to Darlow moments before the break.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Palace had a great start to the second half, though a Newcastle counter attack, 2v1 with Kenedy and Perez, was frittered away by the hesitant Brazilian.

Ciaran Clark had a hold of Benteke’s shirt, and the linesman awarded a penalty to Palace in the 54th minute. Milivojevic’s attempt was mostly blocked by Darlow, but the ball hit the bar and bounded across the line.

The momentum was fully in Palace’s favor from that point forward, Benteke a constant threat.

Christian Atsu set Isaac Hayden up for a rare Newcastle second half attempt, but Hennessey stopped to collect the low drive.

Palace looked to have won it, but Newcastle’s defenders made consecutive goal mouth clearances from Clark to bail out Darlow.

Atsu curled a shot wide against the run of play near the end of stoppage time.

Newcastle United 1-1 Burnley: Controversial equalizer

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  • Joselu missed penalty
  • Kenedy impresses on NUFC debut
  • Lascelles puts hosts ahead
  • Controversial equalizer

Sam Vokes forced Karl Darlow into an own goal off a late and wrongly-awarded corner kick as Burnley came back to draw Newcastle United 1-1 at St. James’ Park on Wednesday.

Newcastle is one point clear of the drop zone, while Burnley pulls ahead of Leicester into 7th place with 35 points.

Jamaal Lascelles scored for Newcastle, which led in the 85th minute when Darlow avoided touching a lofted ball over the bar and Burnley was still awarded a corner.

Chelsea loanee Kenedy starred for the Magpies before subbing off, though many will also be talking about Joselu’s missed penalty kick.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Kenedy created a brilliant left-footed chance in the 17th minute, cranking a shot that Nick Pope may have turned off the post. Christian Atsu hit the rebound right to Pope to let Burnley off the hook.

The next stage saw Burnley in charge, and the match became a series of shoulder barges and chippy challenges. The Clarets had a goal called back for a foul, and saw penalty shouts turned aside.

Ex-Sunderland man Phil Bardsley took down Kenedy in the box, and the loan man gave his new club a great chance. Joselu’s chance was saved by Pope.

The Magpies didn’t lose their composure, though, winning a series of corners and almost seeing Ciaran Clark head past Pope on one of them. A Mohamed Diame bicycle kick missed the mark on another.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

A Kenedy corner kick was headed over goal by Joselu to start the second half, and Barnes blazed over the bar at the other end.

Ayoze Perez won his men a terrific corner in the 54th minute. After a brief discussion with Kenedy and Jamaal Lascelles, Perez sent a poor offering over the goal.

Kenedy then won another corner, sent it in, and Lascelles buried another huge goal for NUFC.

It should’ve been 2-0 when substitute Jacob Murphy played Joselu in for a shot he dragged wide of the goal.

Burnley equalized on that corner kick that should’ve never been, as Darlow didn’t touch the ball on a header over goal. And then touched it twice as Vokes headed on goal.

Newcastle United 1-1 Swansea City: Level at St James’

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  • Newcastle one loss in six
  • Swans score just 14th goal of season
  • Super sub Joselu levels

Joselu played the role of super sub to deny the visitors a rare win as Newcastle United drew Swansea City 1-1 at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Jordan Ayew gave the Welsh visitors a surprise lead, but the concession has Carlos Carvalhal’s club last in the Premier League with 17 points. Newcastle moves three points above the drop before its visit to Manchester City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The hosts were all over the basement dwellers to start the match, but time and again the final pass was a bit off the mark.

When it was on, like when Ayoze Perez did dynamite work in the 12th minute to cue up a point-blank header, the finish was missing: Dwight Gayle headed nowhere near the goal.

Perez was very good early, denied by Lukasz Fabianski following a delightful feed from Matt Ritchie.

Christian Atsu was ripped down atop the 18, dead center, in what was dangerously close to a penalty area. Jonjo Shelvey ripped his effort over the goal, and it was Newcastle who were off the hook for a PK when a Mohamed Diame handball was deemed acceptable at the other end.

After a rare Swans chance, a lazy Gayle was offside to nod in what would’ve been an opener.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Perez intercepted a Sam Clucas miscue and set Gayle up for a 49th minute chance but the Englishman missed yet another opportunity.

Of course, Swans found the opener. Karl Darlow stopped Jordan Ayew’s opening header with a fantastic palm save, but cold only get a finger to the rebound on its way to goal.

Joselu tied the score through traffic at an acute angle after Shelvey sent Perez over the top with a diagonal ball. Fabianski was tight to his post and missed the shot.

Fabianski then thwarted Perez’s bid for a back post goal, and the ball went off the Spaniard for a goal kick.

It was mostly Newcastle without incisive threat for the final 20 minutes. That changed when Ritchie and Atsu lorded over an 88th minute free kick, but no one followed his offering to the back post.

Yet a stoppage time counter nearly defied the Magpies dominance but for Karl Darlow’s aggression and a DeAndre Yedlin clearance off the line.