Not a happy return to the Premier League for Benitez as ten-man Newcastle were beaten at home by Spurs but the Spaniard will be furious with his skipper Jonjo Shelvey
NEWCASTLE boss Rafa Benitez is back where he feels he belongs – but perhaps not with the size of club the Spanish coach has been used to in the past.
So it was fascinating to see the former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager in the Toon dugout against Spurs, in what will be an unfamiliar season for the Spaniard, a battle to avoid relegation.
Benitez has made his feeling clear all summer – he has not been happy with the summer recruitment at St James’ Park.
Against Spurs, the Spanish coach went with a compact midfield of Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden with Ayoze Perez, Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu supporting lone striker Dwight Gayle.
Rafa never gives much away on the bench – but he will feel the football gods were against him when he was forced into an early change as defender Paul Dummett limped off after six minutes.
Dummett was replaced by club skipper Jamal Lascelles who many of the Toon Army thought would have started.
Benitez will have been pleased with his team’s first half display as the message would have been from the kick-off to stay in the game as long as possible against one of the title contenders.
The Toon boss might have sent a text to Mike Ashley saying “I told you so” when another defender Florian Lejeune was crocked after a robust challenge from Harry Kane after 30 minutes.
The former Real Madrid caoch will have been happy with charges first 45 minutes back in the big time.
But he was seething when his captain for the day Shelvey was sent off for a daft stamp on Dele Alli.
With a real sense of injustice, Benitez remonstrated with the fourth official – but when he sees a replay he will be furious with his skipper.
After going down to 10 men – tactically Benitez asked Perez to play even deeper to help out his outnumbered midfield.
But the Magpies resistance was broken on 60 minutes when the villain of the piece Alli opened his account this season from a clever Christian Erikssen pass.
Newcastle, spurred on by the home fans pushed for an equaliser, but the game was over when Ben Davies stole in for Spurs second.
It was all about damage limitation from then with next Sunday’s trip to Huddersfield in mind.
And with around £30million spent so far this summer, Benitez will be banging on Ashley’s door for more players.
The Spaniard is a proud man, who boasts Champions League and domestic league titles on his CV – so season-long dog fight for Premier League survival is something he won’t fancy.