Rafa Benitez's top five matches as Newcastle manager
Photo Credit:(Gettyimages/Clive Brunskill)

Rafa Benitez oversaw 146 games as Newcastle United and there has been a fair share of memorable victories under the Spaniard.

Narrowing down 62 victories down to just five was a difficult, however enjoyable task.

Benitez managed to get victories at crucial moments in each of his three seasons in charge of the Magpies which secured the Championship title and two mid-table finishes in the Premier League.

5. Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 Newcastle United

The Magpies travelled to top of the league Brighton & Hove Albion in February with Benitez's men knowing a win would see them leapfrog the Seagulls.

However, Newcastle got off to the worst possible start at the AMEX stadium when Glenn Murray put the league leaders ahead from the spot after 14 minutes.

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It took Benitez's side until the 81st minute to level things up through Mo Diame's spectacular goal which spiralled off his heel and into the top corner. 

It was a truly spectacular goal that should never have happened but it did and was totally against the run of play and stunned the Brighton fans.

However, it got even better for the travelling Magpies in the 89th minute when Christian Atsu picked out Ayoze Perez in the box before the Spaniard fired home to send the away fans into delirium.

This performance was a great example of what Benitez had built at Newcastle a squad that never gives up and fights for the badge and club.

4. Leicester City 1-2 Newcastle United

This is probably the best example there is of what Newcastle became under Benitez during his tenure.

A team willing to give everything for the club, fans and manager and grinding out a difficult result away from home.

This game will live long in the memory of Newcastle fans with Perez lobbing Kasper Schmeichel from 25-yards out and that passage of play which included no less than five slide tackles.

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It is a brilliant clip that demonstrates the passion the squad possessed especially compared to the last few managers and squads.

This is the game that made myself realise how special it was to have Benitez as Newcastle's manager and the amount of work he had done to change the mentality within the squad.

3. Newcastle United 2-1 Manchester City

The loudest St James' Park was all season was when Matt Ritchie smashed home his penalty past Ederson.

Benitez managed the secure three points against the soon to be champions and being the only manager to do so in 2019.

The Magpies went behind in less than a minute thanks to a Sergio Aguero goal but responded through Salomon Rondon and Ritchie late on.

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This game led to Pep Guardiola saying his midfielders were dominated by Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff which shows Benitez's coaching ability to transform two Championship and League one players into Premier League quality players.

A truly magnificent game under the lights at St James' Park which has to be one of Benitez's greatest victories as manager of the club.

2. Newcastle United 1-0 Manchester United

This was the game that turned Newcastle's 2017/18 season around and started their battle towards safety.

The Magpies were in the bottom three as they welcomed the Red Devils and Jose Mourinho to St James' Park.

This was the start of a brilliant ending for the Magpies that season with Martin Dubravka making his debut that was one to remember for the Magpies.

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Newcastle only won 1-0 but the atmosphere and togetherness on and off the pitch was what summed Benitez up and what he wanted the club to be like.

Ritchie once again, scored a winning goal against a top-six side, before a resolute Newcastle defensive performance and some heroics from Dubravka ensured the three points stayed on Tyneside.

1. Newcastle United 3-0 Barnsley

This game tops the list, not for the performance or the goals or anything to do with what happened on the pitch, but for what it meant for the club and the fans.

This was the final game of the Championship season and leading 3-0 heading into the final five minutes as news trickled around the ground that 10-man Aston Villa had equalised against Brighton.

This ensured the Championship title was heading into the hands of captain Jamaal Lascelles.

There was a sense of euphoria around St James' Park almost like nobody could believe what had been achieved, promotion and the title at the first time of asking.

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The joy around the stadium that day had not been seen for years, probably since the Europa League days and this was in the second division of English football.

However, Benitez was the manager, Newcastle had just won a trophy and they finally had a team full of players that wanted to be there and were willing to play in unnatural positions and fight for the badge.

It is days like this one that fans will look back on with the fondest of memories and think what happened to that squad and why did the club think it was a move in the right direction to let Benitez go.

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