Rafa Benitez reveals why he substituted Matt Ritchie - and how his gamble failed to pay off

Rafa Benitez has revealed why he withdrew Matt Ritchie
Rafa Benitez has revealed why he withdrew Matt Ritchie

Rafa Benitez has revealed his thought process behind removing Matt Ritchie during Newcastle's defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.

The winger had looked the Magpies' most lively outlet during the first half, with his pinpoint delivery allowing Joselu to head home.

But RItchie was withdrawn midway through the second half, with television cameras capturing the Scottish international's frustration with being withdrawn.

And Benitez has now revealed that he felt bringing Christian Atsu into the action would make a difference - although admits that his decision did not pay off.

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The Spaniard also felt that his side deserved at least a point after they went toe-to-toe with one Mauricio Pochettino's men.

Spurs were expected to rest several of their key players who returned late to training following the World Cup, but named a strong line-up at St James's Park and ran out 2-1 victors after Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli found the net.

And despite their obvious quality, Benitez believes that Newcastle's spirit and work rate meant they were more than worthy of a point.

"I think that we deserved at least a draw," he admitted.

"We played a very good team and you could see the quality that they have, but at the same time you could see our team spirit, work rate and the chances that we had.

"So I would say that we deserved a little bit more."

Newcastle's first half performance was fraught with defensive errors which were a far cry from the solidity shown towards the end of last season.

Benitez, though, was keen not to focus on the mistakes and instead praised his sides' reaction.

"You make mistakes when you play against good players," the Newcastle boss added.

"Sometimes, you make your mistakes but against good players it's difficult to stop them and the way they pass the ball and the way that they move on the pitch.

"You can see that many of them are very strong and it's not easy.

"We were working hard trying to control them and after that we had our chances and that is the positive thing, that the reaction of the team was quite good.

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Ritchie's second half withdrawal was a hot topic of conversation, with the wideman putting in an impressive performance.

But Benitez has now revealed why the winger was taken off - and why his gamble failed to pay off.

"I think it's important," said Benitez on Ritchie's upset at being taken off.

"You try to change things when you are not winning and I felt that we needed a little bit of openness between the lines and maybe some one-on-one situations, and I thought maybe Atsu would give us this.

"It was not the right thing in the end, because we had chances but not because of this substitution."