Newcastle United: 5 Takeaways for the Magpies from Comeback Win over Chelsea
Despite an air of positivity surrounding Newcastle after their excellent showing in the transfer window and their victory over Aston Villa, it would have been tough to believe the club could remain in form against a heavily-favored Chelsea side.
Moussa Sissoko made it happen.
After a fantastic debut against Villa, Sissoko scored two excellent second-half goals to give the Toon back-to-back wins and 15th in the Premier League table.
Wonder goals from Frank Lampard and Juan Mata were enough to surpass a first-half header from Jonas Gutierrez, but not enough to take a point back to Stamford Bridge.
It was a complete performance for Newcastle, who look like a club on the rise after a lackluster first half of the season.
Momentum is important in football, and the Magpies definitely have it.
The Moussa Sissoko Transfer Was Highway Robbery
After only two appearances with Newcastle, Moussa Sissoko has made his £2.2 million transfer from Toulouse look like one of the greatest winter steals in years.
Yes, it's just been two games, but what games they were!
After a wholly energetic, exciting performance against Aston Villa in which he provided a beautiful assist to a Papiss Cisse goal, one could only hope he could match that level of play against Premier League heavyweights Chelsea.
Sissoko did more than that.
Even without the brace, Sissoko's performance would have been noteworthy. In particular, Sissoko's pace and pressure in a 72nd-minute breakaway past Ashley Cole was a testament to the hard work the French international puts in on the pitch.
With the brace, he has become a hero and savior to the Newcastle faithful.
Credit also has to go to Graham Carr and Alan Pardew, who, for the second straight campaign, have bought in an absolute firecracker during the January transfer window.
Cisse was one of the best players in the league the second half of last season. The Toon army can only hope Sissoko can match that level of quality.
Then again, maybe he'll do more than that.
Newcastle Really Can Attack in the Second Half
One common critique of Alan Pardew this season has been that he encourages his side to be too defensive-minded in the event Newcastle have a first-half advantage.
Things weren't quite the same today.
Saturday's encounter with Chelsea marked the first time the Magpies scored in the second half since the disappointing Arsenal match on December 29th.
While the lead was indeed blown, there was never that feeling of desperate hopelessness for Newcastle that has usually come when their sit-back-and-hope-they-don't-score has failed this season. It was an entirely different outlook for a squad looking to make a complete 180-degree turn from past weeks, and it seemed to refresh the players.
Whether this is Alan Pardew's doing or just a testament to the aggressive spirit Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko have brought Tyneside remains to be seen.
But Pardew certainly can conclude that staying aggressive in the second half paid off, regardless of who was its inspiration.
The Defense Is Nearly There
Mike Williamson didn't even make the bench.
To Newcastle fans, that must sound better than a Mozart concerto.
After a series of defensive disasters that have been a primary reason behind Newcastle's plummet down the table, the Magpies' back four, along with James Perch in a holding midfield position, have begun to put together stretches of quality that fit a side looking to right the ship.
The scoreline doesn't do the squad justice. While two goals were conceded, both were spectacular strikes that Tim Krul couldn't even hope to defend.
Other than a bit of skittishness by Davide Santon near the end of the match, Newcastle's back four were more than up for the challenge against a tough (albeit beleaguered) Chelsea attack.
Steven Taylor performed exceptionally well, blocking an injury-time shot from Frank Lampard that would have been a terrible pill to swallow.
If the back line continues to improve, it is conceivable that what has been a deficiency for some weeks could turn into a strength by the end of the season.
Cisse Still Needs to Find Form
With his excellent finish to notch a goal against Aston Villa last Tuesday, there was hope that Papiss Cisse had finally picked up the scoring touch that brought Newcastle to incredible heights in 2011-12.
That clearly was not the case.
Cisse was provided with several quality chances against Chelsea, but he was utterly unable to make anything of them.
With newcomers Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran as well as dreamboat Yohan Cabaye setting up as many opportunities as they have the past two contests, it is crucial that the Magpies have a striker ready to capitalize.
Sissoko can't bail out the team with a brace every match.
So unless Cisse can find some way to end his season-long slump, Newcastle's newfound success may be short-term rather than long-term.
It Will Be a While Before Newcastle Gets over Demba Ba
Every time Demba Ba touched the ball, St. James Park released a deafening swarm of boos that delivered a clear message to the Senegalese striker.
You left when we needed you the most, and we aren't too happy about it.
Passing judgment on numbers alone, Ba was a huge success with Newcastle, scoring 29 goals in 54 appearances for the club. He played a big part in the unlikely success of the club in 2011-12 and their qualification for a Europa League spot.
But this season, after an impressive first half yet again, Ba jumped ship from the ailing Magpies and headed to London for Chelsea.
The Toon army takes pride in the dedication of its players. Fabricio Coloccini (the man who broke Ba's nose in the contest), despite a tumultuous January, is still beloved by Newcastle supporters for sticking with the club through their relegation and playing a season in the Championship when he could have easily landed a place on a Premier League team.
Ba, for better or worse, decided to move to a more successful club willing to pay him more for his services.
There were scattered cheers and rounds of applause in pockets of the crowd, but as Ba walked off the pitch after suffering a broken nose, it must have been clear to him that while he may have made the right decision for his career, there will always be a place in northeast England where the fans think he made a huge mistake.