Newcastle United brought Chelsea’s winning run to a crashing halt with a 2-0 win at St James’ Park to provide Alan Pardew’s side with a perfect tonic after a deflating week. Following a drab opening half, it was Newcastle, despite painful defeats to Sunderland and Manchester City, that showed the greater impetus to get a victory in the second half and they were duly rewarded with goals from Yoan Gouffran and Loic Remy.
On a run of six-straight wins in all competitions, it appeared that Chelsea might be the side ready to go on a dominating run in this most unpredictable of Premier League seasons. But the only complaints Jose Mourinho can have with the result is the lackluster display from his side that contributed to it. The chance for Chelsea to, temporarily at least, go top of the table went begging and it is Newcastle whose fortunes suddenly look transformed as they move into the top half of the table.
There was little to suggest what was to come in the early stages. With Shola Ameobi selected alongside Remy up front, Newcastle came in with the plan to play off direct balls forward. But with Chelsea’s dominance in aerial duels, it was a tactic they soon had to abandon. Given their opponents’ initial rashness in giving up possession and perhaps their hangover from toiling from 120 minutes against Manchester City, there will have been disappointment for Mourinho that his side were unable to take advantage. Chelsea lacked any fluidity in attacking areas, while Frank Lampard embodied the sloppy nature of their passing.
In a 45 minutes lacking both urgency and quality, the most threatening efforts, unsurprisingly, came from set pieces. On 13 minutes John Terry met a Juan Mata corner with a powerful header but could only direct it against the crossbar. And Chelsea’s captain put another threatening header toward goal later in the half, but this time Davide Santon was in place to clear off the line.
Despite Newcastle’s greater physical and mental exploits in the previous week, it was they that improved as the game wore on. And around the hour mark, their play took on an air of a team who believed the game was there for the taking. And they were right.
Suddenly there was more attacking thrust provided by the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Remy and Gouffran. Sissoko came close to putting the home side in front when he was found brilliantly by Mathieu Debuchy’s pass inside Ashley Cole, but the midfielder’s shot from a tight angle was helped wide by Petr Cech. From the resulting corner, Remy might have done better with a volley from Ameobi’s knockback that went tamely into the hands of Cech.
Crucially, though, Newcastle would make their best spell of the match count. Cabaye produced a perfect delivery from a free-kick, putting it right on the edge of the six-yard box where Gouffran had lost his marker and was able to stoop to head into the corner.
Newcastle came close to a second too, with Gouffran forcing Cech into a save at his near post, before Terry did well to block an effort from Remy. Inevitably, though, the surge from Chelsea was not long in coming. Mourinho rejigged his lackluster attacking lineup, with Samuel Eto’o, Andre Schurrle and Willian all entering the fray.
They made an impact too, with Chelsea now finding some of the thrust that was lacking for so long. The visitors’ best moment came when Willian was found in prime position from a pullback but his shot was just too close to Krul and when Eto’o looked poised to score from the rebound Debuchy blocked brilliantly.
The back of the net looked destined to be bulging in the closing minutes too when Hazard pulled the trigger on the left of the box, but sent a low shot wide of the far post. Instead it was Newcastle that got the next goal and sealed the victory in the 89th minute. It was all too easy for substitute Vurnon Anita to get in behind down the left and pull the ball back to Remy, who with Terry flatfooted, was able to fire clinically in off the post. It was no more than Newcastle deserved.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.