Despite what Roberto Di Matteo may have said yesterday, it appeared from the moment the squads were announced that Chelsea FC had an eye towards the FA Cup final this weekend at Wembley. Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, and Ashley Cole were all rested ahead of the weekend clash, although Raul Meireles, Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda, and Ryan Bertrand aren't all that much of a drop in quality. Some fans were obviously upset though, as Chelsea really couldn't afford to drop any points in their remaining league fixtures if they wished to qualify for the Champions League domestically.
Chelsea would start out as the livelier side by a good margin. Within two minutes Fernando Torres had managed to stretch the Newcastle defense, and only some relatively good work from Tim Krul was able to keep Torres from getting in on goal. Newcastle looked like they were coming out to press high up the pitch, and that typically leads to thos games that look awfully good for Chelsea.
Torres would display his newly found confidence crossing the ball as well. He'd make a run onto the ball down the left, crossing the ball dangerously into the vicinity of Daniel Sturridge. In all fairness, Sturridge had a very tough volley to make if he was to find the net. He wouldn't, and Newcastle would quickly capitalize on Chelsea's inability to finish one of a number of chances they had created.
Davide Santon would make a nice little run down the left side, and Jose Bosingwa would force him inside onto his favored right foot. That would prove a mistake, as Santon would pick out the red hot Papiss Cisse towards the back of the 18 yard box. Cisse would pop the ball up into the air for a ridiculous volley into the far corner. Just like that it was 1-0 Newcastle.
At that point, Newcastle would sit back and counter. Chelsea poked and probed, but this early in the game they weren't throwing everything forward. The Newcastle defense was well organized though, and Chelsea failed to produce much in the way of chances. Fernando Torres would create another golden opportunity for Chelsea on 35 minutes, crossing the ball from the right onto the head of Florent Malouda. Malouda's header would go just wide of the post, and the 1st half would play out relatively uneventfully from there (although Demba Ba almost doubled the lead off of a corner).
As the second half got underway, Juan Mata came on in place of the ineffective Daniel Sturridge. Ramires moved to the right, Malouda to the left, and Mata took his place in the hole. Newcastle dropped further back to defend as Chelsea continued to probe with very little urgency. The Newcastle midfield was pretty much having their way with a poor Chelsea midfield, as poor touches from Meireles combined with terrible passing from Mikel made it hard for Chelsea to get anything going.
John Obi Mikel would clash with Cheik Tiote, with the Ivorian suffering what looks to be a relatively serious head injury in the collision. At this point Malouda came off in favor of Didier Drogba, with Ramires shifting back to the left and Torres heading out to the right. I actually like this lineup, but against the parked bus of Newcastle it's a bit hard to form much of an opinion. Hopefully we'll see it again prior the the Champions League final, as the Bayern "defense" might be a pretty laughable outfit come the CL final.
Shortly after play resumed, Chelsea would take off the relatively lousy Meireles in favor of Frank Lampard. Didier Drogba would create a pair of penalty shouts, but both were waived off (and probably rightfully so) by the referee. Chelsea would quickly create their best chance of the contest as John Terry headed a corner towards the far post. Davide Santon was perfectly positioned to head it off the line though, keeping the game at 1-0 bad guys.
Their would be ten added minutes, but Newcastle quickly stuck the dagger into the hearts of Chelsea fans. Papiss Cisse fired an absolutely ridiculous strike from about 30 yards out, and the curling shot left Petr Cech with absolutely no chance at keeping it out of the net. That would pretty much end the game, and it may well have been the best goal of the season. 2-0 Newcastle, and Tottenham would also manage a convincing win.
The results would combine to leave Chelsea 4 points out of 5th place with only a pair of games left to be played. A win by either Newcastle of Tottenham on Sunday would mathematically end any chance Chelsea have at finishing 4th in the league. Luckily for Chelsea, they still have the trump card to troll both of those clubs with the Champions League final against Bayern Munich May 19th. It was a disappointing result today, but the focus now has to turn to the two cup finals we still have. Without a doubt, the Champions League final has now become the single most important game in club history.