The two managers know each other well from their time in Italy, and Sarri admitted he expected his rival’s charges to play more proactively
Maurizio Sarri conceded he was surprised by Rafael Benitez’s tactics after Chelsea claimed a 2-1 Premier League win at Newcastle United.
Sarri’s men maintained their 100 per cent start to the season in controversial fashion, a contentious Eden Hazard penalty awarded after a Fabian Schar challenge on Marcos Alonso – in which the Switzerland international seemed to make contact with the ball – giving them the lead.
That gave Chelsea a helping hand after 76 minutes of frustration, the Blues having until then failed to break down a Newcastle side set up to soak up pressure.
Newcastle responded seven minutes later, Joselu heading in a cross from DeAndre Yedlin, who appeared to elbow Olivier Giroud in the build-up.
Yet Yedlin handed Chelsea the points as he turned Alonso’s first-time effort into his own net, and Sarri was able to reflect on a hard-earned win.
“The match has been very difficult, they were so compact it was impossible to have spaces, so it was really difficult,” he told Sky Sports. “It was better in the second half, but a very difficult game.
“I have never seen Benitez in Italy with five defenders, so at the beginning I was really surprised.”