Benitez’s Newcastle United lose opening match of season at Fulham

Rafa Benitez’s relegated Newcastle United started life in the Championship (second tier) with a 1-0 loss at Fulham in the first match of the English league season on Friday.

Fulham scored the winner on the stroke of halftime when Matt Smith rose above a flat-footed defence to power a header into the net from a corner.

Newcastle, generally second best, had two penalty appeals turned down.

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Fulham’s Ryan Tunnicliffe appeared to handle a shot from Matt Ritchie in the 35th minute but the referee waved play on with replays suggesting he could have awarded a penalty.

Another penalty appeal by Newcastle for handball two minutes from time was also rejected, again after a shot from midfielder Ritchie.

Fulham looked more comfortable in a division they have played in for the last two seasons, whereas Newcastle will need to adjust fast if they are to bounce straight back into the Premier League.

© Reuters

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