Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez believes Newcastle skipper Fabricio Coloccini should have been sent off for breaking former team-mate Demba Ba’s nose in a five-goal thriller at St James’ Park.
Newcastle United - Gutierrez 41; Sissoko 68, 90
Chelsea - Lampard 55; Mata 61
The Spaniard pointed to Ba’s premature departure on his return to Tyneside as the pivotal moment in a game which the Magpies won 3-2 courtesy of Moussa Sissoko’s last-gasp strike. Ba felt the full force of the Argentina international’s boot in his face as the pair challenged for a 32nd-minute loose ball, which the striker headed inches wide with the score at 0-0.
Benitez said: “It was a penalty and a red card for me, the incident. In the middle of the park, you just carry on and go back from a free-kick. In the penalty area, you go back, penalty and red card. It changed the game. We lost one player with a broken nose, we had one substitution.”
Defeat on Tyneside left the Blues 13 points adrift of Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United, having played a game more, and Benitez under ever greater pressure. However, he was refusing to be bowed by the criticism. He said: “We are doing a good job in terms of what you can see on the pitch. I am confident we will finish in the top three.”
Newcastle went in at the break leading by the only goal, Jonas Gutierrez’s 41st-minute glancing header, but the visitors turned the game on its head early in the second half. Frank Lampard blasted them level after 55 minutes, and when Juan Mata curled home a delicious second, the writing looked to be on the wall for the hosts.
However, Alan Pardew’s men refused to accept their fate as January signing Sissoko, making his home debut, took it upon himself to inspire a dramatic finale.
It was he who reacted first after Petr Cech could only parry Yoan Gouffran’s shot to steer home the equaliser and then, after he had twice tested the keeper following powerful solo runs, established himself firmly in the affections of the Toon Army.
There were only seconds remaining when the France international dispatched a low drive past the helpless Cech and into the back of the net to snatch victory.
Asked if he had seen a better home debut, Pardew replied: “Not since I have been here.”