Well, that didn’t go to plan.

Matt Smith’s first half injury time header burst the Rafa-inspired Newcastle United bubble, and reminded everyone that there’s a lot of work to do if the Geordies are to get out of this league at the first time of asking.

Ignoring the fact that Newcastle should have had at least two clear penalties, the overall quality of the match didn’t look like Championship chasers vs relegation candidates, and Smith’s header settled it after Jamaal Lascelles lost him from a corner.

Here’s five things we learned from the defeat:

Jamaal Lascelles Close Up Newcastle United

Jamaal Lascelles Is Not The Finished Article

Yes, it was nice when Rafa instilled the captaincy on a 22-year-old promising centre back who isn’t afraid to speak up when necessary, but let’s not forget what Lascelles is.

He’s potential, he makes mistakes, and he needs plenty of work if he’s to become a lead-by-example defender.

From the corner, Lascelles was too easily blocked off, allowing 6’6″ Smith a free header which he didn’t waste.


Ayoze Perez May Struggle Away From Home

Ayoze is arguably the single most talented player in the Newcastle squad.

He’s been linked with Barcelona for a reason, but away at Craven Cottage isn’t a place where fancy touches and skill always prevail.

The space was restricted on Fulham’s narrow pitch, and he struggled to find the pockets that number 10’s thrive in.

He was ineffective, and home games will surely provide the Spaniard with a better platform to play his natural game.


Rafa Is A Massive Vurnon Anita Fan

Anita has only had a handful of decent games in a Newcastle shirt. He’s rarely held a regular spot in the Newcastle team, and this right midfield position was not one he was effective in.

He lacked the natural instinct to move forward and wasn’t amazing in possession, but stayed on the pitch as both centre midfielders were taken off in the second half.

That’s despite Isaac Hayden looking decent in midfield, but surely Rolando Aarons should have started on the left wing, with Matt Ritchie on the right.


Paul Dummett Is Not Good Enough

OK, maybe we didn’t learn this today.

Dummett’s willingness and desire has never been in doubt, but his ability always has, and he turned in another poor performance at Craven Cottage.

Some thought the drop down a division would do him well, but on this performance, Jesus Gamez will be fancying his chances of nailing down a left back slot in the near future, despite being right footed and preferring Daryl Janmaat’s spot.

Rafa uefa

Every Game Is A Cup Final

It’s a cliché, but every game in the Championship is a cup final.

But not for Newcastle.

Other teams look at the Geordies and see a massive target on their heads, fancying their chances as the team that beat the team with the former Real Madrid manager in charge of them.

It’s going to be tough, but Benitez’s side have the quality to prevail if they keep their heads, play their game, and take their chances.

They did none of that in London tonight, and may have learned the most valuable lesson as a result.