Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri said he was shocked by Rafa Benitez’s defensive approach following a touch 2-1 victory over Newcastle.
Sarri praised his players for the resilience they displayed en route to taking three points at St James’ Park for the first time since December 2011.
“We knew that here is a difficult game for us, because only in the last season Chelsea lost here, Manchester United lost here, Arsenal lost here,” Sarri said (h/t ESPN FC). “So I think it is not so easy to play here against this opponent.
“In Italy I have never seen Rafa play with five defenders and also so compact, so it was really very difficult. We needed to move the ball very fast and be patient.
“To draw with five minutes to the end for us it would have been more difficult. I think that this team from a character point of view is a strong team.”
“We had five players out and thought if we were compact we could maybe frustrate them,” Benitez said. “We wanted to stay in the game and try to take our chances and we were very close.”
Benitez addressed a report from The Daily Mail that claimed Lascelles had refused to play in such a formation.
“All my life, I’ve liked to talk with players, so I talk with players, we decide what to do and then we stick with the plan, so everybody knows that,” Benitez said. “If any player has different opinions, they can give their opinions and after we have to stick with the plan, that’s it.”