Rafael Benitez has launched a defiant defence of his tactics after his plan to deny Chelsea attracted stinging criticism.
Benitez, as he had done against the Premier League’s big guns last season, adopted an ultra-defensive approach as his side went down 2-1 to Maurizio Sarri’s men at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon, prompting television pundit Jamie Redknapp to suggest his players would be “embarrassed”.
However, Benitez, whose team had only 19 per cent of the possession, said: “Possession now is just for the TV, for the stats. It means nothing.
“Yesterday, Wolves against Manchester City was an amazing game and they [City] had 71 per cent of possession, so possession means nothing.
“You have to create chances, you have to be solid and you have to do what you have to do to maximise what you have.
“I was watching yesterday teams playing 5-4-1, 4-5-1 and it seems that they are great tacticians and they are fantastic because someone on the TV has an opinion.
“But I was watching the game analysing the stats and I don’t agree with some of these comments. As a manager, you have to make decisions; as a pundit, you have to give opinions. That’s it.”
The Magpies frustrated the visitors for 76 minutes before Marcos Alonso went to ground under Fabian Schar’s challenge and Eden Hazard converted the resulting penalty.
They were back in it within seven minutes when DeAndre Yedlin, who appeared to catch Olivier Giroud with an elbow as he challenged for the ball, crossed for substitute Joselu to head home the equaliser.
However, Chelsea snatched the win with three minutes remaining when Yedlin deflected Alonso’s shot into his own net.