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Rafa Benitez FA Cup Semi-Final heartbreak on Monday

4 weeks ago
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Rafa Benitez was in FA Cup action on Monday.

Whilst Mike Ashley has orchestrated a situation whereby Newcastle United are now relegation favourites after only one week and two games of the Premier league season, the former NUFC boss was dreaming of early glory in his new post.

Rafa oversaw a 4-0 demolition of Tianjin Tianhai in the Chinese FA Cup quarter-finals at the end of the July.

A result which put them into today’s semi-finals, playing Shanghai Shenhua.

It looked like Rafa Benitez was within touching distance of an early cup final after  only seven weeks in charge, his former Napoli player Hamsik putting Dalian Yifang ahead on 14 minutes.

However, Shanghai Shenhua hit back with goals on 22, 45 and 69 minutes.

Zheng Long gave Dalian Yifang and Rafa Benitez hope in the 84th minute but it wasn’t to be, Shanghai Shenhua progressing to the Chinese FA Cup final. They will play either Shangai SIPG or Shandong Luneng, who play in the other semi on Tuesday.

Salomon Rondon played the full 90 minutes but couldn’t add to the three goals he had scored so far in two league starts and three sub appearances.

This was the first real setback for Rafa Benitez since arriving at Dalian Yifang, before today’s FA Cup semi-final defeat, the former NUFC boss had seen his side (as well as that FA Cup quarter-final victory) win four league games and draw another two, the only defeats coming against the two clubs occupying the top positions in the league table.

As for his old club, Rafa Benitez will no doubt be interested to see what happens when Newcastle take on Leicester in nine days time in the League Cup.

Both Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce have pledged to throw everything at the cup competitions this season, will their actions/team selection match their words?

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