Tottenham missed out on second place in the Premier League as they slipped to a humiliating 5-1 defeat at 10-man Newcastle United, with Rafael Benitez delivering a reminder as to his importance to a club bound for the Championship.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men needed only a point to be practically assured of clinching second and finishing above London rivals Arsenal for the first time since Arsene Wenger took the helm.
But instead it was Newcastle that finished a dreadful campaign on a high, roared on by a vociferous home crowd who made no secret of their desire to see Benitez stay on despite having a relegation release clause.
Georginio Wijnaldum provided a close-range finish to give Newcastle a deserved lead, which was doubled by Aleksandar Mitrovic’s header.
Spurs pulled one back through Erik Lamela on the hour mark and the game looked to set to turn in their favour when Mitrovic saw red for an aggressive foul on Kyle Walker.
However, the visitors were ravaged on the counter by a depleted Newcastle, Wijnaldum doubling his tally from the spot before Rolando Aarons and Daryl Janmaat put the game well beyond doubt and capped off an embarrassing day for Spurs late on.
Newcastle started with an evident zip about their play and were rewarded in the 19th minute, capitalising on some poor defending from the away side.
The opener came as Toby Alderweireld failed to deal with a Janmaat cross, which Moussa Sissoko played into the path of Mitrovic to tee up Wijnaldum, who found the bottom-right corner with an accomplished finish.
And Spurs were punished further for a lacklustre first-half performance six minutes before half-time as White Hart Lane old boy Andros Townsend surged down the right and played the ball to Sissoko, whose excellent cross was met with a superb header from Mitrovic that left Hugo Lloris with no chance.
Spurs went close to halving the deficit just before the interval, but Karl Darlow was equal to Christian Eriksen’s near-post strike.
Pochettino made a double change prior to the second-half restart, Josh Onomah and Tom Carroll coming on in place of Son Heung-min and Ryan Mason.
The visitors got back into the game as Cheick Tiote paid the price for conceding the ball in midfield by Lamela, who lashed in off the crossbar at the near post despite Darlow appearing to get a hand to the strike.
Darlow was called into action again to stop Onomah from restoring parity after the substitute had cut in from the right at the end of another well-worked Spurs attack.
The visitors were given further cause for motivation when Mitrovic saw red for a woeful high challenge on Walker.
Eriksen then curled narrowly over from long range, but – shortly after Walker was withdrawn by Pochettino – Newcastle’s two-goal advantage was restored in controversial fashion after 72 minutes.
Sissoko broke free down the left and into the box before going down under the challenge of Jan Vertonghen, with referee Anthony Taylor showing little hesitation in pointing to the spot despite replays suggesting contact was minimal.
Wijnaldum stepped up and coolly sent Lloris the wrong way as he confidently converted from 12 yards.
Lloris denied Sissoko one-on-one as the Newcastle onslaught continued, but he could do nothing to prevent Aarons from rifling a Janmaat cross into the top-right corner after Townsend struck the woodwork.
The rout was completed as Aarons returned the favour for Janmaat, slipping the Dutchman into make it 5-1 by steering beyond Lloris.
With Arsenal thrashing Aston Villa 4-0, Spurs were left to rue a return of just two points from their last four games as second spot and local bragging rights slipped from their grasp.
Key Opta Facts:
– Prior to this result, all five of Tottenham’s league defeats this season had been by a one-goal margin.
– Georginio Wijnaldum has now scored 11 top-flight goals this season, all of them at St James’ Park.
– Aleksandar Mitrovic netted the 1000th goal of the Premier League season.
– Mitrovic has both scored and assisted in Newcastle’s two top-flight clashes with Tottenham this season.
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