Bournemouth snatch last-gasp winner after Benitez blunders
Rafa Benitez has many qualities as a manager, although his stubborn streak is perhaps not one of them as Newcastle fell to their first home defeat since August after a dubious substitution call by the Spaniard.
Bournemouth were already on top in the second half but the home fans were anticipating a shift in the tide. A change was obviously needed up front as Dwight Gayle and Joselu tired, but with the chants asking for the arrival of cult hero Aleksandar Mitrovic, Benitez turned to Ayoze Perez instead.
It was a strange call. Newcastle were struggling to hold the ball up and their rivals were growing bolder as a result.
Benitez may not trust Mitrovic to control his emotions on the pitch but for all his faults he would have added a much-needed physical presence.
The decision to introduce Perez was the sort of unpopular call only a very popular manager like Benitez can make. It backfired. It was not Perez’s fault Newcastle lost the game, but it still felt like a mistake. Rather than give the visitors a different sort of question to answer, Bournemouth merely strengthened their grip, brushing the lightweight Gayle and Perez aside to constantly get on the front foot.
Benitez was, understandably, not keen to elaborate on his reasons for choosing Perez rather than Mitrovic.
“They are different players who would have given us different types of movement,” he said. “If you create chances when you play well, you have to take them and you cannot afford to make mistakes. We didn’t do that.” Had Newcastle taken the many chances they created in the first half, the outcome would have been different.
Both Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu were denied by excellent saves from Asmir Begovic, and Dwight Gayle should have given the home team the lead when he rolled the ball into an empty net after Ritchie had hit a post.
The goal was ruled out for offside, but replays showed Gayle had been level with the last defender when the initial shot was hit.
Bournemouth, though, hung in there and began to threaten themselves at the end of the first half, with Rob Elliot making a good save to tip over Callum Wilson’s looping header.
They gradually cranked up the pressure, and after Marc Pugh had hit a post, finally got their deserved reward with Steve Cook’s injury-time header.
“It was a very satisfying way to win” said Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe. “We have conceded late goals this season and it has hurt us. The win takes us out of the bottom three and that’s a big psychological lift.”
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Elliot 7 Yedlin 6, Lascelles 6 (Clark 55), Lejeune 7, Manquillo 5; Ritchie 7, Hayden 6, Shelvey 7, Atsu 6 (Murphy 82); Gayle 6, Joselu 4 (Perez 68). Subs Darlow (g), Diame, Gamez, Mitrovic. Booked Lejeune, Shelvey. Bournemouth (4-4-2): Begovic 7; Francis 7, Ake 7, Cook 8, Daniels 7; Ibe 6 (Defoe 76), Surman 6, Arter 6, Pugh 7; Wilson 7 (Smith 75), King 6. Subs Boruc (g), Gosling, Cook, Fraser, Mousset. Booked Surman, Francis. Ref P Tierney (Lancashire).
Head of queue: Steve Cook leaps to score the injury-time winner for Bournemouth