Chelsea suffered their first defeat of the season after Papiss Cissé came off the bench to fire two second-half goals and give Newcastle United a 2-1 win over the Premier League leaders at St James’ Park. With Newcastle having come back into the game well following a slow start, Cissé sent the Newcastle faithful into raptures by turning in a Sammy Ameobi cross just before the hour mark. When the Senegalese striker doubled the home side’s advantage with a simple finish with 12 minutes remaining the contest looked over. But within five minutes a second yellow card for Newcastle defender Steven Taylor and a headed goal by Didier Drogba ensured a tense finale. There was, though, to be no late rescue act for Jose Mourinho’s men. A reshaped Newcastle defense, playing in front of substitute, debutante goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, admirably, somehow, held on.
The result means Chelsea lose the chance to set new club records for 15 games unbeaten at the start of the league season and 24 matches without losing in all competitions dating back to last season. Mounting talk of Chelsea being able to match Arsenal’s “Invincibles” of just over a decade ago has now been ended, and at a venue that Mourinho has now left on the losing side in four of his eight visits. But the far more serious consequence from Mourinho’s point of view will be that Manchester City can now close the gap at the top of the Premier League table to just three points if they beat Everton at home later on Saturday.
In the buildup to the match, Mourinho had steadfastly refused to discuss the records that looked set to fall, while also suggesting that Newcastle were one of the teams to always raise their game against Chelsea. Early on at St James’ Park there appeared little for Mourinho to be concerned about. Chelsea dominated the opening quarter of the contest, with Newcastle dropping back to such a degree that they were reduced to long, hopeful clearances more in keeping with the last 10 minutes of a match than the first.
Chelsea, though, were unable to make their superiority count. Eden Hazard gave Daryl Janmaat a torrid time, but fired off target after driving into the box and then, when he laid the ball back to the edge of the area, Willian shot just wide with a clear sight of goal. Having survived that early spell, Newcastle started to apply pressure higher up the pitch and found a Chelsea side surprisingly unable to step up their intensity to match that of their opponents. And Jack Colback had perhaps the clearest chance of the opening half when played through by Ayoze Perez and being denied by the right boot of Thibaut Courtois.
Still, it has not been uncommon this season for Chelsea to underwhelm in the first half only to step up their game and take control in the second. With Newcastle’s backup goalkeeper Rob Elliot having to go off at the interval to be replaced by 21-year-old Alnwick, Chelsea’s chances looked good. But Newcastle saw off what early pressure there was without much drama. In the 57th minute they stunned the high-flying visitors.
The absence of the suspended Nemanja Matic was perhaps in evidence as Moussa Sissoko was allowed to drive unchallenged toward the edge of the Chelsea area, before finding Ameobi in space down the left. The winger’s low cross should still have been cut out at the near post, but Gary Cahill made an awful mess of his clearance, allowing the ball to run on and Cisse, on the pitch less than five minutes, to convert.
Mourinho rang the changes, with Drogba and Filipe Luis joining Andre Schurrle in coming off the bench. But with 12 minutes left on the clock, the match turned decisively in Newcastle’s favor. Chelsea had looked set to equalize when Hazard measured a low shot from the top of the box, only to see it strike the foot of the upright. Seconds later, Hazard was robbed by Colback in midfield and Newcastle broke swiftly and clinically. The former Sunderland midfielder played through Sissoko, who lacked the poise to shoot himself as Courtois confronted him, but was able to lay the ball square for Cisse to stroke simply into the unguarded net.
When Drogba headed home Fabregas’ free-kick as Alnwick showed his inexperience for the only time, it appeared that Taylor’s unnecessary lunge on Schurrle to earn a second yellow card would prove costly. Instead Newcastle survived, as a Chelsea lineup that has been rotated seldom this showed signs of fatigue in the most hectic month of the season.