Newcastle 1-2 Chelsea
Chelsea came home with the three points from St. James Park, where they beat Newcastle United, the home side, 2-1, with a penalty scored by Eden Hazard and an own goal from DeAndre Yedlin, courtesy of a shot from Marcos Alonso.
The match was expected to be tough, considering that Newcastle, with an experienced manager like Rafa Benitez, showed a lot of times last season to be a tough cookie at home against top 6 sides too. But there was another factor too: The Blues hadn’t won for away from home against The Magpies since December 2011, when the team won by three goals to nil, with Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge scoring. So, as Maurizio Sarri said in his pre-match press conference, it would be a difficult game.
Newcastle parked a double-decker bus, I’m not exaggerating it at all. An extremely tight 5-4-1, 10 men behind the ball, low block, compact and too near each other, while Salomon Rondon was the target man in the half-way line, waiting for the long ball. On the other side, Chelsea lined-up with the 4-3-3, with Mateo Kovacic replacing Ross Barkley and Eden Hazard replacing Willian from the game against Arsenal.
The match starts and inside the first couple of minutes, we see Eden Hazard limping a bit. No support from the referee. Then another harsh, very harsh tackle from Mohamed Diame of Newcastle. Again, no card, no free-kick, too. Not so much to comment regarding the first half, besides saying that Chelsea dominated the game in terms of the ball possession, some quick, one-touch combinations between the players, especially between Hazard and Kovacic that caught my eye as well and two shots from Pedro, one of them going just wide and the other getting saved by Martin Dubravka.
The second half was more dynamic. Chelsea were always pushing and pushing. Newcastle still very tight and the tackling on Hazard seemed to be a dirty, anti-sporting tactic prepared before the match, knowing that he got some more tackles from behind, one of them from Matt Ritchie. The first change for Chelsea comes in the 65th minute, when Olivier Giroud replaced Alvaro Morata. This change was expected to come soon, considering Giroud’s ability in the air and his link-up play.
However, the first real moment of the game came after the 70th minute of the game, when Antonio Rudiger shook the woodwork with a long-range shoot. But only some moments later, after getting a pass from Hazard inside the left channel of ‘Magpies’ defence, Alonso is tackled from behind by Fabian Schar. Penalty. Eden steps up and breaks the deadlock. Goal. 0-1.
Anyway, surprisingly, in the 83rd minute, Joselu, Newcastle’s striker, equalizes with a header after a cross from Yedlin. In fact, what was very clear is the fact that Newcastle’s right-back hit Giroud with his elbow before finding the space to cross, so the assistant referee made an obvious mistake by not awarding the free-kick, knowing that he had a very good view and everything happened near him.
But it wasn’t over yet. A free-kick in a crossing position gives Willian the opportunity to loft the ball into the box, in the far post, where Giroud lays the ball with his head behind to Alonso, who shoots cleverly, deflection from Yedlin, own-goal, 1-2. Chelsea win.
Now, to sum up, I want to say that this win was a hard-fought win, with a lot of ball possession, passes, but also patience to break a double-decker bus and determination to fight until the end. In this way, the three points were fully-deserved.