Salomon Rondon defended Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez after his attempts to shackle Chelsea came up just short.
Benitez was criticised by some television pundits for his defensive tactics at St James’ Park in Sunday’s Premier League clash, which saw the visitors snatch a 2-1 victory courtesy of DeAndre Yedlin’s unfortunate 87th-minute own goal.
Striker Rondon, who was making his full debut for the Magpies after joining on loan for the season from West Brom, insisted he and his team-mates had done what they had to do.
He said: “When you play against teams like this, you try not to concede goals.
“We did that in the first half, but in the second, we conceded a penalty and an own goal then they get the three points.
“I’m happy to make my first start, but it’s a shame because we lost the game. We lost to a big team with big players.
“But we did work very well. That’s all we can do in that moment – try our best.”
Chelsea arrived on Tyneside having taken six points from their first two games, with Newcastle managing only one from a defeat to Tottenham and last Saturday’s tepid goalless draw at Cardiff.
Benitez’s men won the corresponding fixture on the final day of last season 3-0, but with six potential starters missing – the Spaniard insisted afterwards that skipper Jamaal Lascelles was injured amid reports of a training ground bust-up over his plan to play five at the back – he took a more pragmatic approach.
It was far from pretty, but it worked until the 76th minute, when debutant Fabian Schar was adjudged to have brought down Marcos Alonso in the box and Eden Hazard scored from the spot.
Newcastle had a point within their grasp when substitute Joselu headed them level seven minutes later, but Chelsea went back ahead when Yedlin inadvertently turned home Alonso’s shot.
That came as a relief to manager Maurizio Sarri, who had no issue with Benitez’s approach.
The former Napoli boss said: “In Italy, it was usual, of course. Not against Inter, Roma, Juventus, but if you played against the bottom 10 teams, it was usual.”
It was Chelsea’s first win at St James’ Park since 2011, and that was a source of satisfaction for Hazard.
He told Chelsea TV: “It’s a big win, a massive win. We know that we don’t have a good record here – I think it’s the first time I’ve won since I came here, so it’s a massive game, a massive win. The boys deserve everything.
“We need to keep this momentum. We want to be at the top at the end of the season. We know the league is not finished, it’s just the beginning, but confidence is coming, goals are coming, so we just look forward to the next game.”