Rafael Benitez admits gambling on fitness of this Newcastle star in Saturday's win

St James Park

The Magpies boss hailed Vurnon Anita after the Dutchman played through stiffness to fill in at right-back in the victory over Crystal Palace.

Newcastle United manage Rafael Benitez has admitted, as quoted by Sky Sports, that he took a gamble on the fitness of Vurnon Anita for the vital clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday and hailed the versatile star's commitment after he played 88 minutes of a 1-0 win.

The Magpies took a giant leap towards securing their Premier League status for another year as Andros Townsend's fine free kick won the game for the North East club and earned them a priceless three points.

That result made it eight points from the last four matches as Benitez looks to steer his side towards safety with a late swing in form and results at the end of a dismal season.

That improvement has come despite the club enduring something of an injury crisis in defence, which has seen midfielder Anita asked to step into the backline in recent weeks.

The Dutchman played again at right-back on Saturday, and Benitez admitted he was thrilled with the display of the 27-year-old despite him struggling with tiredness and stiffness in his legs prior to kick-off.

The Spanish boss said, as quoted by Sky Sports: "It was very important because Anita was a little bit tired with stiff legs but we needed to take the risk and he did really well for the team.

"These are the things maybe people don't notice but it was a massive effort and one we really appreciate."

The latest victory has seen Newcastle move out of the relegation zone for the first time in months, and leaves them a point clear of rivals Sunderland and two points clear of Norwich City.

However, both those clubs have a game in hand over the Magpies which could yet prove crucial as the relegation battle begins to draw to a thrilling climax.

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