By 90Min
August 29, 2018

It wasn't pretty football to watch. Nobody can debate that.

However, the extremely defensive style of football that manager Rafa Benitez had his Newcastle United team employ against Chelsea on Sunday afternoon was effective, and was absolutely the right thing to do.

The Magpies ended up walking away from the match empty-handed after a 2-1 defeat, but it was as much down to cruel luck as it was the Blues' attacking prowess that saw them lose the points.

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For 75 minutes of the match, facing much tougher opposition, Newcastle remained well marshalled and difficult to break down, frustrating the Chelsea players.

For all the possession that the Blues' stars had - and they had a lot of it - they simply couldn't get past the Newcastle defence. It weathered every storm and stood firm, giving Magpies goalkeeper Martin Dubravka very little to do for much of the game.

Yes, it was a negative way to play.

Benitez was criticised heavily by pundits during and following the match, but given the circumstances you could understand his approach. Newcastle were without key figures Jamaal Lascelles, Jonjo Shelvey and Kenedy for the match, and therefore had to take a more safety-first approach.

Newcastle's approach in that vain was to hunker down and secure the point first and foremost. It's something Benitez has done in the past and with his tactically well-drilled teams, it's something they can usually manage to do.

Stu Forster/GettyImages

It doesn't make for good television - the higher-ups at Sky will have been cursing their decision for much of the match to choose Newcastle's game over the goal fest that was simultaneously going on between Fulham and Burnley (which finished 4-2).

However, with a poor summer of recruitment, Newcastle's goal this season is once again survival.

If playing in a less-than-appealing way against some of the top sides ensures that the Tyneside club earns enough points to remain in the Premier League, then it is the correct way to play.

There was a stage against Chelsea where Newcastle had managed just 4% possession in the Blues' final third, and made just 23 passes in the opening 18 minutes of the second half.

It wasn't so much parking the bus as the entire Stagecoach depot, but it was getting the job done.

Or at least it was until referee Paul Tierney got involved.

The Wigan-born referee broke Newcastle's defensive hearts in the 76th minute when he penalised Fabian Schar for a tackle in the penalty box. The Magpies players and fans alike were incensed.

Stu Forster/GettyImages

On the replays, it was clear Schar got the ball - directly in front of the referee too - so the anger was quite understandable.

Unfortunately, things go against you in football sometimes and Eden Hazard dispatched the spot kick. With the negative style of football Newcastle had played up until that point, most people wrote them off.

However, as much as Benitez was criticised for playing defensive and negatively, he was merely playing for the draw. That showed clearer than ever when Newcastle fell behind, because suddenly they burst out with a much greater intensity and attacking drive - stunning Chelsea somewhat.

It paid off too when Joselu met a cross from DeAndre Yedlin to power home Newcastle's equaliser.

In a sort of poetic justice, there were definitely shouts for a foul on Olivier Giroud prior to Yedlin getting his cross in but the referee didn't award it. Rather than playing to the whistle, Chelsea switched off and complained to the referee, letting Joselu ghost in for his second goal of the campaign.

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It looked like the Spaniard - who has become somewhat of a revelation this season so far - had clawed Newcastle back to their desired point.

The Magpies fell back into their defensive shape and once again frustrated Chelsea to no end. Unfortunately, with three minutes left on the clock a Blues shot, which was going wide, clipped the heels of Yedlin and rolled into the net.

It was a sickening way to lose the match for Newcastle, having put so much hard work and commitment into their defensive display, and to have the spirit to get back level after the penalty.

The final whistle meant another defeat at St. James' Park, but it did prove one thing.

Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

As much as Benitez's defensive football was the bane of TV broadcasters and neutral fans alike, it was very effective at shutting down a free-flowing and attacking outlet like Chelsea. Newcastle were able to entirely neutralise them right up until the referee's intervention.

It was absolutely the right tactic to take into a game that could have seen the much weaker Magpies side turned over, and it's one that will almost certainly return against Manchester City in the coming weeks, if not also against Arsenal at home in Septembe

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