Sunday 25 August 2019

Newcastle players turned on each other after Bournemouth defeat, reveals furious Rafa Benitez

Rafael Benitez
Rafael Benitez

Martin Hardy

Rafa Benitez was angry on Saturday night, and that felt unusual. There are moments seasons start to turn, and a second 1-0 defeat within the space of five days was potentially it.

There was even the first sign of discord in the St James’ Park crowd, who voiced their disproval that the unreliable Aleksandar Mitrovic was overlooked as a second-half substitute.

Benitez was so angered by the decision to disallow a goal from Dwight Gayle for offside in the 16th minute (replays showed Gayle and Simon Francis were in line) and other decisions from referee Paul Tierney, that he refused to comment on the officials.

He was unhappy with his players and also the game’s finish, which saw Newcastle perhaps the most ragged they have been under his tutelage. People had stopped listening.

And perhaps significantly he spoke of hostility within the home dressing room, both from himself and some players. It remains to be seen whether that can be channeled into a positive impact on the season, but as with much to do with the club, there was renewed need for perspective; that Newcastle are a newly-promoted side, that they did not sign a big-name striker in the summer, and that there is limitations to what the squad can achieve.

“Yes, I was angry after the game, because you have to say what you think,” said Benitez. “My main priority is to make sure that the players understand what we have to do in the future.

“I wasn’t very happy with some of the things I was watching, that’s it. We made mistakes and in the end we paid for that.

“We gave the ball away easy without great pressing, and we were giving them chances to counter attack. Yes, the players were angry. They are not very happy obviously. That’s very common when you lose a game.

“We knew it would be a long season and we would have good results and bad results. We will stay calm and try to do the right things.

“I will not talk about the decisions (of the officials) because I am not very happy with the decisions.”

Benitez significantly admitted his concern for the season had started when the transfer window closed.

“I was worried from the first of September,” he added. “What I did is to work harder and that is what I will do now.”

That felt a reminder to people that he did not get what he wanted in the summer. There were even jeers at full-time following the defeat to Bournemouth, which seemed to come from supporters with short memories; both of the club’s recent history, and indeed the game itself.

Newcastle hit a post, were denied twice by fine save aves from Asmir Begovic, had a disallowed goal, saw a Gayle shot blocked and then had Joselu shoot wide and Jonjo Shelvey shoot over, pretty much by the half hour mark. In that period, Bournemouth were overrun.

Then there was a misplaced pass from Isaac Hayden and Joshua King ran and shot and the visitors had a foot in the game. The second half belonged to them. Marc Pugh struck a post and Callum Wilson missed a great opportunity. There was still a point for Newcastle if they had defended a 92 minute corner properly, they didn't, and for a second game in five days, one mistake at Premier League level proved decisive, Steve Cook rising above Ciaran Clark and Florian Lejeune to head in the winner.

“To lose against anyone is frustrating, but especially against these teams and in this fashion,” added Benitez. “We have to learn quickly. When you have experience, you know things can go wrong and then everybody will be blaming the others. Now is the time to analyse, to change things, but this is a learning process.”

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