Rafa Benitez gets stick for leaving Messi & Ronaldo on bench against Brighton
I couldn’t make the match down at the Amex so had to ‘support’ Rafa Benitez and the boys from my armchair, whilst attempting to restrain myself from putting my foot through the TV when listening to the rubbish from the Sky Sports commentators and pundits.
A curse of the modern era, I also couldn’t stop myself from at the same time balancing by i-pad in one hand and can of Stella in the other, as I followed what was being said by Newcastle fans on social media.
The line-up of course caused a stir when announced an hour before kick-off, three strikers left on the bench whilst long ago forward/current wide midfielder Yoan Gouffran had a lone role up front.
The news of the starting eleven didn’t go down well and matters were hardly helped when it was Brighton who started the game looking like they had a point to prove, dominating early proceedings.
Plenty of anger obviously at the referee for the penalty decision but with 15 minutes on the clock and United struggling, it wasn’t only Robert Madley getting stick from Newcastle supporters presumably watching from home/pub.
Whilst most fans are loathe to actually criticise Rafa Benitez personally, the anger targeted at his team selection was growing by the minute.
It didn’t really matter to them that after the initial 20 or 25 minutes it was Newcastle who were the better team (see the stats below), the fact the Magpies continued to trail and Gouffran & Diame were still on the pitch, was sending plenty of the critic apoplectic.
True, Yoan Gouffran and Mohamed were arguably our worst players and not looking likely to create or score, but as a team Newcastle were growing in both confidence and impact on the game.
Half-time passed and still no changes, the blood pressure continued to rise around the living rooms/teenagers’ bedrooms of Tyneside.
Just short of the hour mark and the Brighton keeper gifted the ball to Gouffran on the edge of the box, faced with a one-on-one he froze like a rabbit in the headlights and it was a poor effort. This sent a lot of social media fans’ heads spinning.
Even though Newcastle were starting to get more possession and more territory and chances, every minute that went by without substitutions saw the blood pressure rising.
On 74 minutes it was at last Murphy on the pitch – but to the dismay of the masses it was (usual target) Colback making way, not Diame or Gouffran.
Of course we all know what happened next – seven minutes later Mohamed Diame scored that quite beautiful goal he knew nothing about, Ayoze Perez slipped onto the pitch second later almost unnoticed (for Gouffran) and in the 89th minute converted Atsu’s ball for the winner.
Cue mayhem for those watching at the game and on TV.
Moving back to earlier, I totally understand many people’s frustrations with Diame and Gouffran, but that is what they are. Sometimes they contribute but more often than not you just rely on them running around a bit.
However, the way the social media angry mob were going on, you would have thought Rafa Benitez had left Messi and Ronaldo on the bench.
The reality of course being that it was Mitrovic, Murphy and Perez amongst the subs.
This is Rafa’s squad, we don’t have any superstars with hard luck stories at not getting a game.
Yes, maybe on the small number of matches (2 Championship starts and 4 sub appearances) we have seen from Daryl Murphy, he looks like he might be worth more game time but he isn’t some up and coming budding superstar. He has scored a couple of goals but in his second start against QPR he looked really poor (was in good company) and maybe has the look of a 33 year old who is best coming off the bench.
It is the other two though who the story is really about.
Fans might not be happy with having Gouffran and Diame as our most forward pair but Mitrovic and Perez were the very worst on the pitch against Bristol City on Saturday…and I bet the same ones complaining so vociferously about Diame/Gouffran were the same with that pair last weekend.
These are the cards Rafa has to play with, apart from Dwight Gayle he has nobody he can rely on in those forward positions, no one.
Mitro and Perez have been poor a lot more times than they have played well this season, whether starting or as a sub.
Maybe you criticise up to a point Rafa’s part in putting together this squad but not how he has used it.
He s mixing it up to try and get a little bit more out of the likes of Mitro, Diame, Gouffran, Murphy and Perez, alongside the odd one with real quality such as, Gayle, Shelvey and Clark.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Brighton 1 Newcastle 2
Newcastle: Diame 81, Perez 89
Brighton: Murray 14 (pen)
Possession was Brighton 46% Newcastle 54%
Total shots were Brighton 10 Newcastle 19
Shots on target were Brighton 6 Newcastle 8
Corners were Brighton 3 Newcastle 6
Referee: Robert Madley
Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Colback (Murphy 74), Shelvey, Atsu, Diame, Gouffran (Perez 82)
Elliot, Hanley, Gamez, Anita, Mitrovic
Crowd: 30,230 (Newcastle 2,700)
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