Rafa Benitez's five most memorable wins as Newcastle manager ahead of his 100th game in charge

On Monday evening Newcastle United travel to Goodison Park to face Everton. It is an important fixture in the race to finish eighth and earn a couple of extra millions pounds from league placing.
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More importantly, however, the game is Rafa Benitez's 100th in charge of the Magpies.

His 99th brought an excellent 2-1 win over Arsene Wenger's Arsenal at St James's Park.

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Here we take a look at the five most memorable games under the Spaniard:

5-1 v Tottenham Hotspur (St James's Park – Premier League)

The team had already been relegated, Benitez unable to steer the club to safety having taken over from Steve McClaren. Yet, more than the performance, more than the result, the fans' reaction would prove significant in the future of the Spaniard at Newcastle.

Banners, flags and signs were unveiled as Benitez was serenaded by an appreciative crowd form the first minute to the last and long after the final whistle.

Newcastle's players celebrate after winning the Championship after the Barnsley gameNewcastle's players celebrate after winning the Championship after the Barnsley game
Newcastle's players celebrate after winning the Championship after the Barnsley game

The Toon Army knew they had a special manager in place, someone who "got" Newcastle United, and they knew they couldn't let him go without a fight.

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Opponents Spurs only needed to draw to secure second-place and their first league finish above rivals Arsenal since 1995, but Newcastle went 2-0 ahead in the first half through goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

An Erik Lamela goal and Mitrovic red card seemed to turn the tide but the Magpies scored three times in the final 20 minutes through Wijnaldum, Rolando Aarons and Daryl Janmaat as a carnival atmosphere transpired.

Even a message flown above the ground by Sunderland fans, or the fact Newcastle were heading to the Championship again, failed to dampen the mood.

Matt Ritchie celebrates his goal against Arsenal (Pic: Stephen Dobson)Matt Ritchie celebrates his goal against Arsenal (Pic: Stephen Dobson)
Matt Ritchie celebrates his goal against Arsenal (Pic: Stephen Dobson)

Afterwards, Benitez said: "My heart is telling me yes (to stay)."

6-0 v Queens Park Rangers (Loftus Road – Championship)

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Benitez's start to life in the Championship did not go well. An opening day defeat at Fulham was followed by a home loss to Huddersfield Town. The expectation that the Championship was going to be a cakewalk was being revised.

But then Newcastle hit their stride. Five wins in a row, 15 goals scored, only one conceded.

Rafa Benitez applauds Newcastle's fans after the 5-1 win over TottenhamRafa Benitez applauds Newcastle's fans after the 5-1 win over Tottenham
Rafa Benitez applauds Newcastle's fans after the 5-1 win over Tottenham

The fifth fixture of the run was midweek trip to Shepherd's Bush to face Queens Park Rangers. The Magpies delivered a statement performance against Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's men.

Leading 2-0 at half-time, Newcastle ran riot after the break attacking a packed and buoyant away support. The pick of the goals was Jonjo Shelvey's second, a magnificent curling shot into the top corner from around 25 yards.

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QPR's goalkeeper Alex Smithies produced a spectacular stop to thwart Mitrovic, while Christian Atsu was denied by the woodwork as Newcastle could have won by more.

The team would pick up only one point from their next two games before winning the following eight.

2-1 v Brighton & Hove Albion (Amex Stadium – Championship)

After 33 matches, one point separated Brighton in first-place and Newcastle in second. Surprisingly, in terms of pre-season predictions, Benitez's men had already lost seven. This game would prove pivotal in the direction of the league title.

Jonjo Shelvey celebrates a goal against QPRJonjo Shelvey celebrates a goal against QPR
Jonjo Shelvey celebrates a goal against QPR
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More than 30,000 packed into the Amex Stadium for the Tuesday night top of the table clash.

The home side were the better team from the off, going ahead through a Glenn Murray penalty. They failed to build on the lead as Atsu impressed for Newcastle.

As the game entered the final moments it appeared as if the away side would rue their wastefulness. That was until one of football's most bizarre goals. The Sky Sports commentator called it "extraordinary", but words fail to do it justice.

A scuffed Atsu volleyed was poked on by Darryl Murphy, who had instinctively stuck his boot out, only to direct it towards Mohamed Diame who simply watched as the ball hit his heel and looped skywards before dropping in the top corner.

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At the point the ball hit Diame Brighton fans were still cheering Atsu's effort ironically.

With the seconds ticking down, substitute Ayoze Perez grabbed the winner, teed up by Atsu as Newcastle went two points clear at the top with 12 games remaining.

3-0 v Barnsley (St James's Park – Championship)

When Brighton defeated Wigan Athletic 2-1 on April 17 last year, not only did they confirm promotion to the Premier League, but they opened a seven-point lead at the top of the Championship, with Newcastle having lost to Ipswich Town on the same day.

Three fixtures were all that was left. The Seagulls had one hand on the league title. But they went on to lose their next two fixtures as Newcastle claimed six points.

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Just under a year on from the 5-1 victory over Spurs, Benitez's men were once again in front of a packed St James's Park.

Newcastle meant business from the off as they took the game to the Tykes. Perez netted the opener in the 22nd minute, turning in a DeAndre Yedlin cross.

They battered the away side, creating numerous chances. But it wasn't until just before the hour mark they doubled their advantage through Chancel Mbemba.

A few minutes later news filtered through that Brighton had taken the lead against Aston Villa meaning the title was heading to the south coast.

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Dwight Gayle scored a third in stoppage time. Newcastle were going up but not as champions. Or so everyone thought as they celebrated the goal. Within moments news reached that 10-man Villa had equalised through Jack Grealish.

From celebrating Benitez the previous year to celebrating winning the league under the Spaniard.

1-0 v Manchester United (St James's Park – Premier League)

The last time Newcastle had tasted success against Manchester United at St James's Park, Sir Alex Ferguson was in the opposition dug-out. A comprehensive 3-0 victory ensued as Newcastle headed towards a fifth place finish.

When Manchester United travelled to Newcastle in February the Magpies were 17th, level on points with 18th place Stoke. Not only would this be a momentous win because it was against United it also acted as a catalyst for Newcastle to motor up the Premier League table.

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It was a collective performance, one emphasised the coaching talent of Benitez and his ability to organise a team to become more than the sum of their parts. Shelvey and Diame were imperious in the middle of midfield against Paul Pogba et al.

At the back there was a memorable debut for Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka who endeared himself to the Newcastle faithful with an assured display.

It was Matt Ritchie who netted in the 65th minute with a cool finish to give the Magpies a deserved.

Since that result, Benitez's men have lost only one of their last six, winning four on the bounce.

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