Rafa Benitez reveals the mood in the Newcastle dressing room
Rafa Benitez says there was no jubilation in the dressing room after Newcastle United's season-ending win over Tottenham Hotspur.
The relegated club ended an abject season on a high by beating Mauricio Pochettino’s disinterested side 5-1 at St James’s Park.
But the players still left the stadium “disappointed” given their previous failings, according to manager Benitez, whose name was chanted throughout the game by fans desperate for him to stay on Tyneside.
And supporters – who were applauded by the team in the centre circle after the match – walked out of the ground wondering why the team hadn’t played like that over the course of the campaign.
Georginio Wijnaldum scored twice, while Aleksandar Mitrovic, Rolando Aarons and Daryl Janmaat also found the net.
United’s last three goals came after the team was reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Mitrovic for raking his studs down Kyle Walker’s shin in the 67th minute.
Asked about the mood in the dressing room after the match, Benitez said: “We have the same feelings.
“We are really disappointed, because we couldn’t stay up and happy because at least we gave the fans something to enjoy.
“So I told them before the game we have to be professional and we have to do well, and they did it. The players gave everything.”
Benitez felt his team had played with too much “anxiety” against Aston Villa eight days earlier.
Newcastle were held to a goalless draw at Villa Park, where Villa played with a five-man defence, and their fate was confirmed last week when Sunderland beat Everton at the Stadium of Light to secure their Premier League status.
United were able to play without “fear”, while Tottenham, needing to win to guarantee a second-placed finish in the league, were inexplicably off the pace.
The result saw Arsenal finish above Tottenham in the league for the 21st consecutive season.
“We knew that without fear it could be like this,” said Newcastle manager Benitez.
“We did well. It’s different. Football is totally different.
“They needed to win, and then when they conceded they were more open. We had more space, and it was easier for us to run behind defenders.
“Aston Villa were deep with five defenders and three midfielders, and without the space, we missed chances.
“We scored five goals and it could have been even more.”
There were chants of “Rafa Benitez, we want you to stay” and “Rafa is a Geordie” during the match.
Benitez said: “Obviously, it’s emotional. But at the same time, you try to concentrate.
“When we had scored the third goal, I could relax and enjoy the game and feel the atmosphere.
“During the game you can hear the fans, but you have to concentrate to do your best to the team.”
Mitrovic, sent off against Arsenal last August, will miss the first four games of United’s Championship campaign if he is still at the club, as the dismissal was his second of the season.
Benitez said: “I haven’t seen it.
“The fourth official told me, but I haven’t seen it and it was not a day to watch replays of the penalty or the sending off.”
Asked about the Mitrovic incident, Tottenham head coach Pochettino said: “I didn’t see it.”