It took Scolari 35 games to lose 5. It has taken Rafael Benitez just 21 matches. One has gone on to become the manager of Brazil. The latter surely stares at redundancy.
Chelsea yet again let a lead slip as Newcastle’s French army stole the show. Moussa Sissoko bagged a début brace just a couple of days after joining the Toon for £1.8 million, and what a signing Newcastle have bagged there.
Rafa himself has complained many a time that his side lacks the strength-in-depth to compete. And with a two-man show this afternoon, Roman Abramovich might regret just making the one January move.
It was Frank Lampard and Juan Mata who carried Chelsea from defeat to three points with half an hour to go, but Sissoko had his moments and took them.
Rafa looked short of ideas, a dead man walking. When needing goals, he brought on defenders against Brentford, when needed to see out a lead, he brings on a striker, and now when needed just anyone to ease the heavy legs, Rafa looked as confused as he did dejected.
It now means Chelsea have just one win in their last six matches. 10 wins in 21 games stands Rafa as having a Chelsea win percentage of 47.6%. He might take heart that his record is 0.1% better than André Villas-Boas’, but failure to win in the next match and he may leave as Abramovich’s worst appointment.
It has always been difficult for Chelsea to go up to Newcastle. Cisse stole the show at Stamford Bridge last time, and the Blues have only won 6 of the 18 games played away against Newcastle.
And with some decent acquisitions for Alan Pardew’s side, it was no surprise the Magpies new men looked more eager for the points.
Papiss Cisse showed his intent, and Gary Cahill had to be in the right place at the right time. Davide Santon too was making menacing runs, and with Azpilicueta making way for John Terry, it was Ivanovic who had to deal with the threat as the right-back for the day.
Sometimes, despite all the negativity, a handful of players have the ability to motivate themselves, and Frank Lampard’s personal pursuit as being Chelsea’s all-time top scorer continued here, blasting a shot high over Krul’s bar.
Demba Ba was making his St James Park return and his former team-mate Coloccini showed no mercy as the Argentine walloped the Senegalese forward, as Ba’s return was cut short with a broken nose.
It could have been a red card and penalty for Chelsea, but Howard Webb opted to let the game flow. Torres was to come on for Ba.
Cisse nearly capitalised on the confusion, but Cech proved to be a safe pair of hands on his return.
Gutierrez did, however, four minutes before half-time, wonderfully heading home a Santon cross to send the Newcastle fans wild.
Chelsea needed a response in the second half as social media went into a meltdown of “oh not again”, and Frank Lampard, as per usual, dug his side out of the hole, to record his tenth goal in 12 league starts for Chelsea this campaign.
A trademark dipping volley from 20 yards restored parity, recording goal number 197, just 5 off Bobby Tambling.
It was a goal filled with even more history, being Chelsea’s 50th goal of the season, but also meaning that Frank Lampard became the first player ever to score ten or more goals in ten successive Premier League seasons.
It got better for the European Champions six minutes later. Ivanovic’s cross was blocked, and when Torres laid off to Juan Mata, the Spaniard curled in a delicious goal, replacing Lampard’s effort as the goal of the day.
The former Valencia man has now been involved in 19 goals (10 goals, nine assists) in 20 Premier League starts for Chelsea this season. Without this man, Chelsea would be nowhere near to where they are this season.
But just as the joy of a Chelsea fightback returned, the expectation of a loss was only around the corner. All too frequent Chelsea have not been able to hold out, and on the 67th minute, Newcastle were back in it again.
Gouffran shot was parried by Cech, but right into the path of Sissoko, who tapped home: 2-2.
It was a open game and tremendously entertaining for the neutral, but Chelsea fans were fearing the worst.
And the worst came when Sissoko put the Magpies back in front on the 90-minute mark with a low 18-yard drive.
Chelsea’s next match is against Wigan, but where now for Rafael Benitez?
- Newcastle 3-2 Chelsea (guardian.co.uk)