Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United
A beautiful second-half goal from Willian gave Chelsea a narrow win over Newcastle in front of a packed crowd at Stamford Bridge.
Pedro had given the Blues a first-half lead, but a superb header from Ciaran Clark drew the Magpies level before Willian won it for the hosts. Maurizio Sarri’s Blues had a chance to extend the lead over fifth place in the Premier League to six points after Arsenal’s defeat away to West Ham. The visitors gave them a real game, but Chelsea’s quality eventually shone through.
According to Premier League 2019 odds, Newcastle should avoid relegation, but they are back in the bottom three after Cardiff City won a point to move ahead of them.
Highlights of the game
Chelsea had plenty of the action in the opening stages and went ahead on just nine minutes. David Luiz carved the Newcastle defence open with a precision ball for Pedro, and the Spaniard lifted a delicate lob over the keeper and into the net. We said Chelsea needed to be more ruthless in front of goal, and Pedro was exactly that.
Newcastle needed a change in game plan and it was no help for Rafa Benitez that winger Kenedy was unavailable to play against his parent club. Chelsea continued to dominate the game with Luiz heading narrowly wide and Pedro forcing a good save from Martin Dubravka with a 25-yard effort.
But the visitors did begin to work their way into the game. Ayoze Perez had an excellent chance to level when Salomon Rondon put him clean through, but he sliced his shot wide of Kepa’s post. Then Newcastle stunned the home crowd as they drew level when Ciaran Clark met Matt Ritchie’s corner and bulleted a header past Kepa and into the net. 1-1.
For all Chelsea’s first-half possession, Newcastle had fashioned as many chances as the home side. And the Blues came out in the second half determined to rectify that. N’Golo Kante took advantage of a lucky deflection to collect the ball and put Pedro clean through on goal, but this time Dubravka got down to make a brilliant save.
But there was not a lot the visiting keeper could do when Willian restored Chelsea’s lead with a touch of genius. Eden Hazard, who had been quiet up to now, ran at the Newcastle defence before laying the ball off to the Brazilian, who then curled a beauty beyond Dubravka and into the corner of the net to send the home fans wild.
Willian had a glorious chance to make it three when Luiz put him through with a superb ball, but he failed to do what Pedro had succeeded in when the Newcastle keeper thwarted his lobbed attempt.
Newcastle had a great chance to get back in the game on 85 minutes: Manquillo picked out Rondon with a floated cross, but the striker’s header flew wide.
The us odds pointed to a comfortable home win and it was well-deserved in the end, but a one-goal lead is never relaxing.
This was the first time Chelsea had scored at home in three games which was a welcome return for the fans, and this win means Chelsea has lost only one of 24 home Premier League games against Newcastle.
Eden Hazard had a quiet game but he has now made ten assists to add to his ten goals in the Premier League.
Newcastle have only lost four games away from home and it’s their home form which has dumped them into relegation trouble, losing at St James Park to Manchester United last week. But the Premier League 2019 results already in today had left the Geordies in the relegation zone.
There is a huge game for Maurizio Sarri’s team next week as he takes them to the Emirates to face Champions League rivals Arsenal. A result there will cement their top-four place for a few weeks to come.
Meanwhile, Newcastle have a busy week ahead; first is a tricky FA Cup replay away to Championship side Blackburn Rovers. And then it’s back to St James’ Park where they have a crunch match at home to relegation rivals Cardiff City. They need to get their home form going soon or it will be a nervy run in for the Geordies, and anything less than three points against Neil Warnock’s strugglers will sound alarm bells.
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