Dove Magazine

Chelsea rescue a point against Newcastle with late comeback

Never mind the Newcastle crisis, the Chelsea one was nearly back on again here. Steve McClaren started this game as arguably the Premier League manager under most pressure following the reaction of Newcastle supporters to the tamest ofexits from the first cup of the season. He came within 10 minutes of passing much of that burden on to José Mourinho, whose Chelsea side once again looked pallid and likely to slump to a fourth league defeat, before a remarkable late recovery left the home side hanging on just to earn a point.

Willian and Ramires

Mourinho deserves some credit for his substitutions, for Ramires came on to pull the first goal back and was crucially involved in the equaliser, even if he failed to get anything on the Willian free kick that ended up in the back of Tim Krul’s net. Eden Hazard was the real spark of Chelsea’s fightback, however, and the travelling fans must have made their way home wondering why he, and their team in general, only showed any spark in the final few minutes.

Perhaps it was the shock of finding themselves two goals down to Newcastle that spurred Chelsea into action, and the slightly depressing news for the home side was that once the visitors began to mean business they could not live with them. A draw was a fair result in the end and, if Newcastle were left deflated at the final whistle after coming so close to picking up their first league win, at least they showed some of the fight and application their manager had demanded. If they can keep playing like this, they should be climbing the table before long.

McClaren made five changes to the side beaten by Sheffield Wednesday’s reserves in the Capital One Cup in midweek, and asked the inexperienced Kevin Mbabu, a right-footed central defender, to play at left-back against the defending champions.

Mbabu only made his Newcastle debut in the cup game in midweek and, on his first Premier League start, he found himself marking Pedro. In fairness, he kept the former Barcelona player quiet for most of the game. Chelsea stuck with the side that beat Arsenal last week apart from the one enforced alteration, replacing the suspended Diego Costa with Loïc Rémy, booed from the start after his period on loan here two seasons ago.

Rémy might have put his team ahead with the first real chance of the game after Branislav Ivanovic fought his way to the byline and crossed from the right, but the ball came to him quickly and his stabbed shot from the six-yard line flew harmlessly wide. McClaren had made an impassioned plea for fight from his players after the Wednesday horror-show and, in the first part of the game, the home side showed it. Georginio Wijnaldum took on and beat Ivanovic down the left to send over a cross that Aleksandar Mitrovic reached with his head but could not keep on target, then on Newcastle’s next attack Moussa Sissoko advanced to the edge of the penalty area and rolled a shot narrowly wide of Asmir Begovic’s goal. McClaren’s players deserved the vocal backing they were now getting from the crowd, for they were putting up a decent show.

Mbabu incensed Mourinho by upending Pedro right in front of the dugout, but otherwise Newcastle were matching their opponents fairly, with Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita winning most of the midfield contests. From a move that Colback started, Ayoze Pérez brought the first save of the game from Begovic, quickly followed by another stop by the goalkeeper when Daryl Janmaat carried the ball into the area. It took a last-ditch block by Gary Cahill to halt another Janmaat run and, as the interval approached, it was possible to argue Newcastle had enjoyed the better of the game. There was no real end product though, and Chelsea almost made their hosts pay for over-adventurousness in attack when Chancel Mbemba was caught in possession much too far up the pitch, creating a hole in central defence into which Cesc Fàbregas strode to bring a diving save from Krul.

With Chelsea obviously so dangerous on the counter, Newcastle were probably thinking they needed to cash in on their overall supremacy with a goal before half time, when one arrived from nowhere with three minutes to spare.

Actually it arrived from Anita’s long, diagonal ball into the Chelsea area, but there seemed no obvious danger until Ivanovic and Kurt Zouma left it to each other and allowed Ayoze a free shot at goal. He took one right foot touch to bring the ball down then a second to beat Begovic via the inside of an upright, with the two Chelsea defenders practically standing back and applauding

If that soured Mourinho’s mood at half time it would not have improved when Newcastle increased their lead from a set piece on the hour, again taking advantage of hesitant Chelsea defending. It is hard to believe a defence featuring John Terry would have allowed Wijnaldum to score with a soft header from a corner but, when Ayoze’s cross came over, the Dutch forward met little resistance when guiding a stooping header into the bottom corner.

Mourinho sent on all his substitutes and Ramires pulled a goal back with an unstoppable drive after Hazard had finally managed to impose himself on the game by deftly cutting in from the left.

The Belgian came to life after that and was Chelsea’s best hope in the closing minutes, but Mbemba threw himself in the way of Hazard’s best chance of an equaliser.

Yet Chelsea kept coming, and Newcastle were finding it hard to repel the blue tide. Two substitutes combined for the final goal, when Newcastle gave away a free kick on the edge of their area, with Ramires distracting Krul and Willian claiming the goal.

It saved Chelsea from embarrassment, though the harsh truth for Newcastle is that had the match lasted another 10 minutes there might not even have been the consolation of a point. –the guardian-

 

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