What often gets forgotten is that Rafa Benitez has the ability as a coach to sum up a game quickly and see what’s happening.
He is one of the best touchline managers in the game, and he has proved that many times in his sparkling career.
Rafa proved that on Saturday afternoon when he orchestrated a win after we were 2-0 down after 32 minutes.
That was the first time we had come back from two goals down to win a Premier League game in over 15 years.
The last time was back in October 2003 when we were 2-0 down to Fulham after only 8 minutes but came back to win that game 3-2 with the help of a second-half brace from Alan Shearer.
The great Sir Bobby Robson was the manager at the time.
Rafa Benitez talking to Jonjo Shelvey before he came on after 79 minutes
This is how Rafa explained what happened at halftime and in the second half that got us the vital 3 points – as reported in the Chronicle today:
“We need two more wins now, but I had thought one would be enough.”
“To see the reaction of our players in front of the fans was amazing.”
“Before, we were losing at home, but now we’re winning – and, to win five in a row at home, we have to be delighted.”
“It was quite difficult because we didn’t play as badly as you think when you’re 2-0 down at half-time.”
“The team was OK. We made some mistakes and we missed the penalty, but still, we had chances – Ayoze had a chance.”
“To go in 2-0 down after missing a penalty, you have to keep the players believing they can do it.”
“I told the players to stay calm, analyze what we have to do and that, if we score one, we’ll be back in the game.”
“Later on we were fine, controlling the game but not creating too much.”
“Then we changed to four at the back, moved Matt Ritchie to more of a winger and we had more control of the second balls and created more.”
Brighton, Cardiff, and Southampton all won on Saturday, and it was the excellent and unexpected 2-0 home win by Cardiff against the Hammers that kept us only 6 points above the drop zone.
Fulham and Huddersfield both lost again, and they both look doomed.
And Burnley were beaten at Liverpool yesterday 4-2 and are now tied with the Saints on 30 points and only 2 points above the drop zone.
There’s still one team to be relegated, and it could be between Cardiff City, Southampton, and Burnley although nobody in the bottom half of the table are safe yet with still 8 games to play.
We need to go all out for the win against Bournemouth on Saturday, and that will take us above the Cherries on goal difference in the league – so there’s a great incentive right there.
It was an uplifting second half display from our lads on Saturday and another fabulous win – our 9th of the season and our 5th this year.