HE might not have been fit enough to travel to the Liberty Stadium as he continues his recuperation from surgery, but it is safe to assume Rafael Benitez will still have a spring in his step this morning. If this is what Newcastle United are capable of in his absence, perhaps he should stay away more often.

With Benitez glued to his television screen in his family home on the Wirrall, and relaying telephone instructions to Antonio Gomez Perez, who was seated in the directors’ box at Swansea, Newcastle’s players recorded the club’s first Premier League away win since December 2015.

Jamaal Lascelles’ second-half header lifted the Magpies into the top half of the table, but it was the quality of the visitors’ defensive display that was especially commendable as they repelled a series of Swansea attacks with precious little alarm.

As well as being the match winner, Lascelles was also the star of his side’s defensive performance, sliding in at the last possible moment to prevent Tammy Abraham rolling the ball into an empty net and marshalling his team-mates with a calm authority.

The home win over West Ham prior to the international break proved Newcastle could attack – this display is evidence that they can also defend. If they can continue to marry the two sides of their game so effectively, they will comfortably confound the gloomier predictions that accompanied their return to the top-flight.

If nothing else, yesterday’s ferociously-committed display has at least dispelled much of the dismay that had descended in the wake of an unproductive deadline day. Swansea fielded both of their much-trumpeted deadline-day signings, with Renato Sanches starting and Wilfried Bony coming off the bench. Newcastle had no one to parade, but it didn’t matter. The core of this side won the Championship title last season, yet their qualities have been overlooked in a rush to bemoan Mike Ashley’s control of the purse strings.

Perhaps they will be afforded more respect in the wake of their latest performance. Lascelles certainly deserves it, as does his centre-half partner Ciaran Clark, who was equally impressive as Newcastle kept their second successive clean sheet.

The players Newcastle did sign this summer might also be demanding a reassessment of their worth in the wake of yesterday’s display. Javier Manquillo was excellent at right-back, successfully dealing with the threat of Tom Carroll and the overlapping runs of Martin Olsson.

Joselu led the line excellently, and would have scored his second Newcastle goal had it not been for a superb first-half save from Lukasz Fabianski. And while Mikel Merino could find himself the subject of some retrospective FA punishment after a dreadful first-half dive, the rest of his performance was sumptuous. On the evidence of his last two displays, it is just as well Newcastle have agreed a cast-iron clause that will enable them to buy the Borussia Dortmund loanee next summer. Of all the players to have moved into the Premier League this summer, he could end up being up there with the very best.

He outperformed Sanches throughout, brushing the Bayern Munich loanee off the ball, outmuscling him in a 50-50 setting and driving Newcastle forward with his positive passing. Having kept Jonjo Shelvey out of the side yesterday, he is rapidly emerging as Newcastle’s most important midfielder.

He fits perfectly with Benitez’s preferred playing style, and while the Magpies manager was not at the Liberty Stadium, his side’s performance had his imprint all over it. Content to sit back and cede possession to Swansea in unthreatening areas, the Magpies had less than 30 per cent of the ball for much of the afternoon, yet Rob Elliot was only required to make a handful of saves.

Both Merino and Isaac Hayden tore here, there and everywhere to close down their opponents, with Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie proving equally diligent as they readily tracked back to support their respective full-back.

Swansea probed repeatedly down their right-hand side, but Sanches was unable to get far enough forward to link with either Jordan Ayew or Abraham. The same was true of Kyle Naughton, who found himself receiving the ball close to halfway line rather than level with the penalty box.

Newcastle’s tactical approach relied on them being able to spring forward in numbers whenever there was an opportunity to break, and with Joselu holding the ball up effectively, the visitors created more first-half opportunities than their opponents.

Hayden shot straight at Fabianski in the first five minutes, and when Federico Fernandez failed to deal with Ritchie’s long ball midway through the first half, a stretching Murphy swivelled to volley over the crossbar.

Joselu also went close with a first-time strike after he allowed Jesus Gamez’s throw in to run across his body, and having opened his Newcastle account in last month’s win over West Ham, the £5m summer addition must have thought he had doubled his tally ten minutes before the interval.

His glanced header from Ritchie’s left-wing cross was heading into the corner before Fabianski flung himself to his left to claw the ball to safety. It was a sensational fingertip save, and came at a time when Swansea were struggling to cope with Newcastle’s attacking pressure.

The hosts hadn’t created a single opportunity at that stage, but the first half ended with them fashioning two decent openings in the space of a minute.

Hayden lost possession as he was engulfed in his own half, but while Ayew advanced towards the area to get a shot away, Rob Elliot turned the ball around the post. Carroll took the resultant corner, and having peeled away from Clark, Alfie Mawson found himself unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box. The centre-half should have scored, but instead his header crept past the left-hand post.

The second half followed much the same pattern as the first, with Newcastle soaking up pressure and threatening on the break.

Their biggest scare came on the hour mark, but they survived thanks to some brilliant defending from Lascelles. Abraham rounded Elliot after racing on to Leroy Fer’s through ball, and while he was forced to go wide, the winger, who turned down a loan move to Tyneside, looked to be rolling the ball into an empty net. Somehow, though, Lascelles slid in to divert the ball to safety.

It was a crucial intervention, and the centre-half produced an even more decisive one at the opposite end 16 minutes later.

Ritchie delivered an inviting corner from the left, and having broken clear of his marker, Lascelles out-jumped Mawson to plant home a powerful header from the edge of the six-yard box.

It was the skipper’s first goal since April’s 1-1 draw with Leeds United, and unlike on that occasion, the Magpies were able to withstand some late pressure to come away with a win.