Maurizio Sarri admitted he was surprised by Rafa Benitez’s tactics in Chelsea’s victory at Newcastle.
Chelsea maintained their perfect start to the season with a 2-1 victory at St James’ Park, but left it late to secure the win against a deep-lying Newcastle side.
Sarri’s side looked to have dropped points for the first time when Joselu cancelled out Eden Hazard’s 76th-minute penalty seven minutes from time, but DeAndre Yedlin put through his own net with three minutes remaining to hand Chelsea the points.
“I was surprised at Rafa,” Sarri told Sky Sports. “In Italy, I have never seen him play with five defenders so I was really surprised.
“The match was very difficult, they were so low and compact, it was impossible to have spaces.
“We got better in the second half but it was a very difficult game.
“I think we showed improvement because the match was difficult it was not easy to play well.”
Eden Hazard capped his first start of the season with a goal and a man-of-the-match performance.
The Belgium international lasted the 90 minutes and registered three more attempts than any other player on the pitch with five efforts on goal, produced a game-high nine touches in the opposition box and completed 91 of his 101 passes.
“Eden has played very well,” Sarri added. “Maybe it was better it he played for 75 or 80 minutes, but (Mateo) Kovacic asked for the sub so it was impossible [to take him off].”
Rafa Benitez took offence with referee Paul Tierney’s decision to award Chelsea a penalty, and a free-kick that led to Yedlin’s late own goal.
Asked for his verdict on the decision, Sarri replied: “I don’t know about the penalty, I was far away and I was not the referee. I don’t want to be a referee.”