Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho accused the St James’ Park ball boys of taking too long to return the ball after his side’s 2-1 loss at Newcastle United on Saturday.
Chelsea were bidding to set a new club record of 24 games without defeat, but Papiss Cisse’s second-half brace gave Newcastle victory and breathed new life into the Premier League title race.
After Newcastle captain Steven Taylor had been sent off for picking up a second yellow card, Didier Drogba replied for Chelsea, but the hosts held on to prevent Mourinho’s men opening up a provisional nine-point lead.
Referee Martin Atkinson added on six minutes of injury time, but Mourinho told the BBC: “There could have been 20 minutes’ stoppage time, but the situation would have been the same because things were happening outside the four lines that the referee couldn’t control.
“The referee can’t punish the ball boy who disappeared with the ball, the referee couldn’t punish the people in the crowd who kept the ball.”
Mourinho felt that his team had lost their “emotional balance” after Cisse’s second goal in the 78th minute, but he played down the disappointment of losing an opportunity to complete an entire season unbeaten.
“I’m not obsessed with records and statistics,” he said. “That’s not for me. I want to win the league.”
Newcastle have now won their last three home games against Chelsea and manager Alan Pardew felt victory was fitting reward for his team’s commitment.
“That was about character and discipline against probably the best team in Europe at the moment,” he told BT Sport. “At the start I thought we stood off Chelsea a bit, but we stuck at it.
“I’ve never had six minutes of stoppage time at home before. We’ve heard of ‘Fergie time’, but that was about ‘Mourinho time’!
“It’s a special day for us. At the end we had players flying in blocking shots, and that summed us up. We are in it together and pulling one way.”