Rafael Benitez accused Henri Lansbury of “acting”, and claimed the Nottingham Forest midfielder was responsible for the dismissal of two Newcastle United players in a crazy 2-1 defeat at the City Ground.
Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett were both shown first-half red cards for fouls on Lansbury, with Karl Darlow saving the subsequent spot-kicks from Nicklas Bendtner and then Lansbury himself.
Bendtner cancelled out Matt Ritchie’s opener at the start of the second half, but nine-man Newcastle looked like claiming what would have been a remarkable point before Lascelles bundled the ball into his own net with four minutes left.
Benitez was proud of his players’ efforts, but was clearly incensed by Lansbury’s actions, which led to referee Stephen Martin brandishing two red cards in the space of 12 minutes.
Shelvey kicked out at Lansbury when the pair were tangling on the floor, but the Forest midfielder had already delivered a kick of his own and went down clutching his face even though Shelvey only made contact with his leg.
Twelve minutes later, and Lansbury was collapsing to the ground again under minimal contact from Dummett, who had followed him into the box.
“I was really surprised by the number ten, Lansbury, by the way he was acting twice for the penalties,” said Benitez, who has now watched his side suffer two league defeats and crash out of the EFL Cup in the space of six days. “Maybe he is proud of himself.
“If the referee can’t see that he was kicking Jonjo before…I will not defend Jonjo, he made a mistake, but he (Lansbury) was kicking Jonjo from behind. After, he was acting.
“In both situations, I think he was doing something that normally in England everybody criticises. I was really surprised by that.
“I don’t know if they (the Football Association) can look at the images, but maybe they can consider their number ten in both situations because I think he was creating a mess.
“It could be that the referee (fell for that), but we can also talk about the goal that was disallowed or the penalty that was not given. The first goal was also maybe offside. We can talk about so many things, but that is not going to change the score at the end.
“We just have to praise the players for the effort and work they were doing, and make sure we do not make these silly mistakes in the future.”
Benitez felt Shelvey was goaded into flicking out his leg in Lansbury’s direction, and also claimed Dummett should have been awarded no more than a yellow card, with Lansbury’s actions once again influential.
“It could be a yellow card,” he said. “But if you see the replay, he was waiting with his leg out and then he was diving. I suppose it was very clever.”
Shelvey’s red card was for violent conduct, and will therefore attract an automatic three-match ban unless it is appealed. He is due to have a hearing for an aggravated breach of the misconduct rules in the week before December, so if he is found guilty of that offence and handed a six-match ban, he could be sidelined until the start of February.
Dummett should only get a one-match ban for denying a goalscoring opportunity, but while he will not be lodging a formal appeal, Benitez is urging the Football Association and the officials to reassess the two red cards.
“I will not ask for anything,” he said. “If they want to do something, fine. If they do not, it is up to them. We made a mistake, but he (Lansbury) was kicking Jonjo first, and after that he was waiting and diving.
“It was so obvious, so clear, so if they want to do something, fine. If not, forget it. We will carry on and do what we have to do, and make sure we do not make these mistakes like Jonjo.
“I cannot change anything, but surely someone has to see the images and say that something was wrong. Someone has made a lot of mistakes, and they have to analyse whether that was the players or whatever.”
Newcastle left the City Ground with nothing, and will be knocked off top spot if Brighton win at Cardiff this afternoon.
Nevertheless, having watched his players go through the heartache of a penalty shoot-out defeat on Tuesday, Benitez was delighted with their passionate response in extremely difficult conditions.
“The only thing I can do is praise my players,” he said. “The way that they played, and their commitment and intensity was quite good in a very difficult situation.
“I will take the positives from that. The team was strong enough with nine players to compete against a team that is a good team. But in these circumstances, it is almost impossible.”