The clearest, most emphatic, yet least deserved scoreline you will see all season. Three goals to the good for Chelsea, a clean sheet as the cherry. Yet the scoreline does not reflect the match. Time and again woodworks were being hit, super saves were being made. And yes somehow, Chelsea win 3-0. A powerful header by Didier Drogba continued to show why he – and not £50m man Fernando Torres – should be starting, whilst two in the last three minutes ensured Chelsea win. Back to back 3-0 wins, serving great momentum for the Champions League do-or-die match on Tuesday.
Little changes were made from the last Premier League outing. Frank Lampard started for his 500th start for Chelsea, whilst Luiz retained his place. Ivanovic was preferred to Bosingwa at right-back, with Mata, Drogba and Sturridge proving the attack. Bertrand was amongst the subs, after his impressive outing midweek.
The first half was as entertaining as it gets. The first big talking point came inside the first five minutes. Lovenkrands passed to Demba Ba, and when Luiz realised he reacted too slowly to it, he appeared to bundle over the big Senegalese man. Mike Dean was quick to react, but only pulled out a yellow card. The Newcastle supporters vented their fury, as Ba was clearly in a goal-scoring opportunity. A lucky escape for the haphazard Luiz, who came in with such promise in January, but now only seems to get things wrong. Much to Manchester City’s disappointment, he will miss their match on Monday week, this being his fifth card this season.
Soon after, Chelsea had a big talking point themselves. Daniel Sturridge, who is in truly inspired form, wiggled his way past Cabaye. The man brought Sturridge down – Mike Dean signalled for the penalty, much to the fans’ dismay. Justice will have been done when Tim Krul, having a blinder of a season himself, tipped Lampard’s penalty onto the post, much to AVB’s anger.
The match continued at the blistering pace it started at, Sturridge continuing to be a real threat, hitting the side-netting, to the relief of the home crowd. Newcastle had a chance themselves, Cech saving superbly from Ba in the 23rd minute. Newcastle suffered a set-back minutes later, when their defender and captain Collocini had to be replaced due to injury. Immediately, Chelsea looked to test this new back-line, but Drogba could not penetrate through.
Until the 37th minute. Ashley Cole’s controversial throw-in found Juan Mata who was not marked. He took one touch, two touches, before elegantly lifting the ball for the Ivorian to power in. Newcastle were feeling aggrieved, not for the first time, as they felt it should have been their throw-in, but there can be no excuses for the poor defending that directly resulted in the goal.
The second half was as equally enthralling. Again, Newcastle made the better of the starts, Ba hitting the woodwork again from a corner. Before Newcastle fans even had a chance to get their breath back came another Chelsea attack, in an extraordinary few seconds of play. The ball ricocheted back from the crossbar. It found Sturridge, who marched down the right side. With it being two versus two, Sturridge passed to Ramires, who was clean through. His low shot was saved by the trailing leg of Krul, and it bounced agonisingly wide. It would have been some counter-attacking goal.
Lampard was replaced on the hour mark by Meireles, but the Englishman did not look too happy about it. Perhaps AVB decided to take him off, knowing he was one booking away from missing the Manchester City match (or that he missed the penalty, take your pick). The match resumed, and Newcastle were still giving it all they had, Ba and Ameobi versus Terry and Luiz was proving some contest, but the latter two were proving difficult to break down. The captain was having a tremendous match, with Luiz not putting a foot wrong this half either. It was our captain who stopped Newcastle from equalising, clearing off the line from Sammy Ameobi when Cech was beaten. Kalou came on in place of Mata on 74, and Torres came on for Drogba on 79, in a bid to shuffle things up and provide fresh legs to see off this fascinating match.
The woodwork proved yet again to be Chelsea’s saviour, coming to the rescue of a Ameobi shot when Cech could only watch. The follow-up shot was dealt with well though by the big Czech. Sturridge continued to impress, but he continued to be thwarted by Krul. But the second goal did come to kill of any Newcastle hopes – in the 89th minute. Fernando Torres had space to run at the defence, and the old, confident Spaniard would have taken a shot that would have gracing the back of the net. Instead, he fluffed his shot, which was blocked by Taylor. Back to goal and spotting the oncoming Salomon Kalou, he passed and Kalou duly side-footed home. At least the mis-firing Spaniard got an assist.
Newcastle players lost their drive and will and that proved, when Chelsea rubbed salt into the wound and Sturridge got the goal his performance deserved. Steven Taylor had just gone off with injury, leaving Newcastle to ten men, and that was evident here, with Sturridge cutting inside and firing low past the not so formidable Tim Krul.
A fascinating match that might, come May, shift the swing of things. Momentum refound after back-to-back 3-0 wins, and with Manchester City coming up soon, this could be some Christmas cracker.
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