Chelsea vs. Newcastle: Match Review
Berlin’s "Take My Breath Away" was atop the UK singles chart the last time Newcastle beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
The song line could not be a more apt description for the breathless atmosphere that meandered through Stamford Bridge following a sublime 94th-minute Papiss Cissé strike. The frustration of 18 consecutive league games without victory was relieved in the form of a monstrous strike that weaved, dipped and floated into Petr Cech’s top left corner.
The Blues lacked a purposeful endeavour throughout the first half and were duly punished by Newcastle in the 18th minute. Papiss Cissé scored a beautiful opener from the edge of the area following some superb build-up play by Senegalese strike partner Demba Ba.
Chelsea’s immediate response was subdued; Fernando Torres cut an isolated figure in Newcastle’s final third. The rejuvenated Spaniard did create problems for the visitors, but poor finishing from Raul Meireles and Ramires meant his creative output was unrewarded.
The Blues were fortunate not to be two goals down at half time. A thunderous strike from Demba Ba ricocheted off the Chelsea post and into safety, but the opportunity came after the Chelsea defence took their eye off the front man in a set-piece procedure.
Chelsea were wasteful and hesitant; Newcastle were well organised and calm. A commanding performance by midfield enforcer Cheik Tioté and the resourceful Yohan Cabaye prevented Chelsea’s aged midfield from producing any real moments of creative flair.
Florent Malouda, Raul Meireles and Ramires were unnoticeable in the first half; much of Chelsea’s attacking adventures came from wing back Ryan Bertrand.
Roberto Di Matteo attempted to spark some creativity into his battle-worn team in the second half by introducing talismanic midfielder Juan Mata at halftime. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard also made second-half cameos.
With Manchester City and Everton to go, can Newcastle earn a top-four finish?
The final quarter of the game would have been nervy for Newcastle if Chelsea’s midfield found it within themselves to muster a decent effort on target.
Their only effort of note however came on the 87th-minute mark. A pin-perfect corner from Juan Mata glided onto the head of John Terry, whose header left Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul wrong footed and rooted to the ground. Were it not for the positioning of Davide Santon on the right post, the Chelsea skipper would have drawn the scores level.
Newcastle’s jubilant spirit will no doubt be neutralised by the injury to midfield powerhouse Cheik Tioté. The Ivorian collided with John Obi Mikel’s elbow while attempting to win a header. The incident left Tioté receiving treatment in the middle of the pitch for 10 minutes before being stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask.
The result has emphatically put a stop to any cautiously optimistic hopes Chelsea fans may have been harbouring about qualifying for next season’s Champions League. If the Blues are going to play in European club football’s flagship competition, they will need to do it the hard way and beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on May 19.
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