Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez has suggested his side became a victim of complacency after Blackburn Rovers earned a shock win at St James’ Park on Saturday.
Benitez made six changes from the win at Leeds United last Sunday. And Charlie Mulgrew’s 76th-minute strike spoilt the party on Tyneside as the Magpies missed the opportunity to earn a tenth victory in a row, which would have been a new club record.
The Magpies are yet to achieve a home victory this season without a first-half goal to their name.
Benitez revealed the Shields Gazette after the game that his players got a shock in the first-half. The 56-year-old thought that “some of his players maybe were expecting an easy game and were surprised”.
Getting it wrong
The 56-year-old boss reluctantly praised his players’ reaction after half-time: “The first 15 minutes of the second-half we were creating chances and we were on top of them.” said Benitez.
However, it wasn’t enough which understandably left the Spanish boss disappointed as Brighton and Hove Albion closed the gap to two points at the top of the Championship table.
Benitez felt Mulgrew's winner was something he warned his players about. Benitez said: “we were talking about not making mistakes because they will look for set-pieces, for long balls and second balls and see what happens.”
But, Benitez and co are keen to put the defeat behind him and look to their EFL Quarter-Final Cup tie at Hull City, tomorrow evening: “In the end, that’s what happens, so we were talking about that and we have to be careful with that, but we got it wrong.” Benitez said.
A potential semi-final beckons
If the Magpies were to get past the Tigers, it would be their first semi-final since 2005 when they locked horns with Manchester United in the FA Cup, and Benitez believes “It is an opportunity to get into the next round.”
A rotation policy has been adopted on Tyneside, which Benitez insisted was the reason for his changes, “we had been changing players and we were doing the same.” He said.
The media assumed that Benitez’ six changes were because of the EFL Cup tie, however, the ex-Liverpool boss was quick to deny that: “No, I was thinking about winning against Blackburn and then to approach the other one with the same mentality.”