By Coral Barry
Rafael Benitez’s half-time team talk inspired Newcastle’s impressive comeback against Liverpool on Saturday, according to goalscorer Papiss Cisse.
The striker got the fightback rolling with a header just after half-time to peg Liverpool back to 2-1 after Newcastle were overrun in the first 45 minutes thanks to goals from Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana.
Jack Colback then completed the comeback in front of a stunned Anfield when his deflected shot beat Simon Mignolet thus rescuing Newcastle a 2-2 draw and a crucial point in their fight for survival.
Newcastle had looked down and out by the time they retreated into the dressing room at half-time, but Cisse has revealed that it was a few choice words from their manager Benitez that lit the fire the relegation-battling Magpies had been sorely missing in the opening period.
“Everyone knew that we needed a point now, and we started very, very badly,” said Cisse speaking to the official Newcastle website. “But the reaction in the second half was very, very good – amazing – for the team and all the players.
“The message was ‘you don’t have anything to lose now – you have 45 minutes to give everything you have’. All the players knew that, and they came back and gave everything. In the end, to have one point is an amazing point.”
Benitez has opted to start Cisse in the last three league games despite fellow striker Aleksandar Mitrovic being available and having the better goal return with eight league strikes this season.
Cisse in contrast had not scored since November, but rewarded his manager’s faith yesterday with a goal when Newcastle most needed it.
The result does nothing to alter Newcastle’s position in the Premier League table with the Magpies still second from bottom, but it does mean Benitez’s team are now just one point away from potentially lifting themselves out of the drop zone.
With just three games left to play, Newcastle will go into their final three matches against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Tottenham with growing confidence.
In other Newcastle news, Alan Shearer has given his verdict on the 2-2 draw with Liverpool.