Newcastle United suffered a third successive setback by succumbing to a 2-1 Sky Bet Championship defeat at Nottingham Forest last night.
On the back of last week’s loss to Blackburn and the midweek EFL Cup exit at Hull, the Magpies failed to extend their two-point lead at the top of the table.
Forest came from behind, against nine men, to make it three wins in a row.
Furious visiting boss Rafa Benitez hit out at Forest’s Henri Lansbury after the controversial defeat.
Benitez accused the midfielder of play-acting after he was involved in the dismissals of Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett.
Shelvey was sent off for reacting to provocation from Lansbury, while Dummett was shown a red card after the 26-year-old went down under a challenge from him.
Benitez admitted Shelvey made a “mistake” in reacting to Lansbury, who went unpunished. But he felt Dummett should not have been dismissed by referee Stephen Martin.
“In both situations, I think he was doing something (play-acting) that normally in England everybody criticises,” said Benitez. “I was really surprised by that.
“I don’t know if they can look at the images, but maybe they can consider their No 10 (Lansbury) in both situations, because I think he was creating a mess.
“I will not ask for anything. If they want to do something, fine. If they do not, it is up to them. We made a mistake, but he 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.”
On the Dummett incident, Benitez added: “It could be a yellow card, 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 dismissal earned Forest a 34th minute penalty, but Karl Darlow dived to his left to push away a slightly hesitant effort from ex-Sunderland loanee Nicklas Bendtner.
Newcastle responded superbly to going a man down and they took the lead in the 45th minute. Matty Cash gave away possession and Issac Hayden’s cutback found Matt Ritchie, who drove home a superb finish from 12 yards.
That was not the end of the first half drama however as, after another good ball from Eric Lichaj had sent Lansbury skipping clear, the Forest man was brought down by Dummett.
The defender was red-carded and Darlow dived low to his right to deny Lansbury from the spot.
Forest took only seven second-half minutes to break nine-man Newcastle’s resolve, albeit only after Darlow had made another fine save to deny Bendtner. The Dane reacted quickest, prodding home from close range.
It was Bendtner’s fifth goal against Newcastle, the most goals he has scored against any English club.
The winner came late on. Lansbury whipped in a superbly-flighted corner, which caused chaos in the box, and, as Matt Mills and Cash pressured at the far post, luckless Magpie Jamaal Lascelles got the final touch, steering the ball over the line.
Benitez was also angry that Ciaran Clark had a first-half goal disallowed.
“We can also talk about the goal that was disallowed or the penalty that was not given,” said Benitez. “The first goal was also maybe offside.”
Nottm Forest: Stojkovic, Mills, Perquis, Mancienne (Assombalonga 46), Cash, Lansbury, Kasami, Lam (Carayol 65), Lichaj, Osborn, Bendtner (Vellios 79). Subs: Vaughan, Hobbs, Henderson, Grant. Booked: Mancienne, Lansbury. Goals: Bendtner 52, Lascelles 86 og.
Newcastle: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie, Perez (Anita 46), Gouffran (Diame 77), Gayle (Mitrovic 87). Subs: Mbemba, Tiote, Sels, Atsu. Sent Off: Shelvey (33), Dummett (45). Booked: Darlow, Gouffran, Yedlin. Goal: Ritchie 45.
Att: 21,317. Ref: Stephen Martin (Staffs)