Newcastle United stopped the rot on Tuesday night by coming back from two behind to draw 2-2 with West Brom and earn a valuable point at the Hawthorns.
Benitez made five changes from the side that lost 3-0 at home to Watford on the weekend, most notably replacing goalkeeper Rob Eliot with Karl Darlow – the man who played in net for the majority of last year’s promotions season.
West Brom caretaker manager Gary Megson made one change from the side that gained a hard-earned point against Spurs at Wembley, replacing star summer signing Jay Rodriguez with Hal Robson-Kanu.
The opening exchanges of the game were interrupted by a flurry of free-kicks, with the first half resembling an early season relegation battle as both teams lacked ideas and cohesion.
Maybe a lack of goal mouth action was to be anticipated due to both teams struggles finding the back of the net this season. Fans had to wait until the 38th minute to see the first shot on target, as Robson-Kanu out jumped Ciaran Clark but Darlow got across his line well to palm his low header away.
It was a similar situation which forced the opening goal of the game in first-half stoppage time – Kieran Gibbs hung a ball up from the left hand side and Robson-Kanu met it with his head, this time beating Darlow to make it 1-0 to the Baggies.
Going into the break, Rafa Benitez looked absolutely livid with his side’s complacency to concede in first-half stoppage time for the third game in a row.
His side came out on top for the second 45 and the newly installed Mikel Merino had Newcastle’s first shot on target as the ball dropped kindly for the Spanish midfielder to volley from distance but Ben Foster got down well to save comfortably.
After a dire performance against Watford, DeAndre Yedlin was again at fault for the first goal after he let Gibbs in behind him with ease to provide the assist – and he was to blame again as West Brom doubled their lead thanks to his terrible marking at the back post.
Matt Phillips swung a beautiful cross in which sent the Newcastle defence into capitulation, allowing Sam Field to ghost in and nonchalantly tap home in the 56th minute.
The game seemed to spring into life and just three minutes later, Newcastle captain for the night Clark commanded the West Brom area and headed in Matt Ritchie’s in-swinging corner – 2-1 and game on.
The Baggies looked to respond quickly and Robson-Kanu made use of a world of space in the Newcastle defence – a back-line that seems to lack any kind of organisation without captain Jamaal Lascelles – but the Welshman’s shot was straight at Darlow.
The game slowed as West Brom looked to prevent any sort of Newcastle comeback, with the Magpies next chance coming in the 79th minute as Ayoze Perez’s volley from distance was gratefully gathered by Foster – the Baggies were doing a good job of shutting up shop.
But it didn’t last much longer…
Former Sunderland man James McClean came on and instantly made his presence known by fouling Yedlin – up stepped Matt Ritchie and he powered the free-kick from the right hand side into the back of the net thanks to a deflection off Baggies’ striker Salomon Rondon.
Newcastle thought they had completed the comeback in the 89th minute as substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic dispatched Yedlin’s cutback but the American had already been flagged offside.
The final few minutes were all Newcastle but they just couldn’t fashion a winner – a draw probably a fair result in the grand scheme of things with the Toon definitely the happier of the two sides as they prevent a fifth successive defeat.