LONDON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Jose Mourinho lamented his side’s poor finishing after Manchester United suffered a first loss to Newcastle United for five years at St James’ Park in the Premier League on Sunday.
Matt Ritchie’s 65th-minute goal earned the hosts a 1-0 victory that lifted them clear of the league’s bottom three and left United a whopping 16 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City.
Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez all suffered off-days in front of goal while Newcastle’s debutant keeper Martin Dubravka, on loan from Sparta Prague until the end of the season, was inspired in the home goal.
“My verdict is that we could’ve been here for 10 hours and not scored a goal. Newcastle played with their lives and defended with their lives,” Mourinho told the BBC, having earlier described the opposition as fighting “like animals”.
“The gods of football were clearly in their side. They must have an amazing feeling after giving absolutely everything.
“We had some (chances) with the score at 0-0. Alexis had an open goal and then the countless opportunities of the last 20-25 minutes. The double miss of Martial is incredible.”
Ritchie’s winner came from a clever flick by Dwight Gayle after Jonjo Shelvey’s lofted free kick had been headed down in the area. The free kick was awarded when United defender Chris Smalling dived theatrically when challenging for a midfield ball and was shown a yellow card.
“A defender has to concede free-kicks now and again. It was an intuitive thing. Players (who do it) in the box deserve a card more than Smalling in that situation,” Mourinho added.
Victory was a huge relief for Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez against a man with whom he has often clashed.
There was a warm handshake at the final whistle, though, between the two managers who have both managed Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea.
Newcastle’s first home win since October lifted them from 18th to 13th in the table and Benitez was full of praise for keeper Dubravka.
“He can buy the lottery and win today. He was composed and that gave confidence to the team,” the Spaniard said.
“All the players worked hard, so it is not fair to say just the goalkeeper played well.
“We worked as hard as other games, but against a team like Manchester United every ball is important, they can punish you, so you work like them. Amazing effort.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)