Ghana coach Christian Atsu says Newcastle United coach Rafa Benitez has the big players for the big occasions – after Newcastle United recorded their biggest win of the season.
Benitez’s side beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 on Tuesday night to return to the top of the Championship.
It says a lot about the character of the team to win a game like that. Atsu had a hand in both of United’s late goals at the Amex Stadium, where they were heading for a damaging defeat with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Mohamed Diame levelled with a flicked finish and Atsu squared the ball for Ayoze Perez to score an 89th-minute winner for Newcastle, who lead Brighton by two points ahead of Saturday evening’s game against third-placed Huddersfield Town.
“I love playing in big games, and you can see the rest of the team feel the same way too,” said winger Atsu. “That was a big game, and there is nothing better than coming out of the end of a game like that with all of the points.
“When you are at a big club like Newcastle, you have to show your talent in big games. They are going to be the matches that decide your season, and so far, we have done well in the really big matches.
“I remember being told from a very early stage in my career ‘it is the big games where you see the good players’. “If you are a good player, you look forward to the chance to influence a game like that. And as you have seen all season, our team is full of good players.
“It says a lot about the character of the team to win a game like that. “I thought we created a lot of chances in the first half and could have equalised, and it would have been easy for our heads to have dropped when we weren’t able to score. But we kept believing in ourselves. Brighton are a very good side, but we fought hard.”
Atsu, on a season-long loan from Chelsea, feels the togetherness at the club got the team through the game.
“That is the kind of spirit you have to show if you want to get promotion,” said 25-year-old Atsu, who hopes to earn permanent move to Newcastle. “You have to stick together when times are difficult, and we have done that all season.
“We have a very good team spirit, and the belief of all the players is strong. We are a very good group, and this is the kind of team spirit we are going to need in every game between now and the end of the season.” The Brighton win followed a 2-2 home draw against struggling Bristol City.
“We lost two points at home to Bristol City, and we knew after that we couldn’t afford to throw any more points away,” said Atsu.
“Some people might have thought a draw would have been a good result against Brighton, but we knew we wanted to win and that is why we kept on pushing right to the end. We will be fighting in every single game we have left now. “The Brighton game is finished, so we move on and look ahead to Huddersfield.
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