I was asked earlier today if I was 'participating in November'. If only there was some way that I -- or Chelsea, I suppose -- could opt out of this month entirely. The Curse of the Bad Moment struck once again at St. James' Park, where Newcastle handed Chelsea their first loss since the Basel debacle. It was thoroughly deserved, too. After a first half in which neither team bothered playing football, the hosts came out for the second fired up, took advantage of some diabolical play, and came out 2-0 winners.
But it didn't all go wrong in the second half. The Mapgies, bruised and battered from a very tough week, were clearly bracing themselves for a storm from the get-go, and with all of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar on the pitch, it's easy to see why they were so nervous in the first half. But while the weather indulged Newcastle's mood, the players didn't. The vaunted attacking band didn't do much of anything, and the centre forward (in whom far too much faith has been placed. Again) might as well not have existed at all.
The game could have been very different if Chelsea had had a little luck, of course. Early on, the Blues contrived to hit the woodwork twice in as many seconds. First John Terry met a corner with a firm header which beat Tim Krul but cannoned back off the crossbar, and Branislav Ivanovic's acrobatic attempt to bundle home the rebound ended up deflected onto more or less the same spot.
That was more or less the only bright spot of the half for either side. Chelsea were playing as though they had a 4-0 lead to see out, while Newcastle were merrily booting the ball away whenever it got close to them. So was Frank Lampard, come to think of it.
Alan Pardew apparently realised that the Blues weren't even a little bit threatening and set his side out to attack in the second half. Slowly but surely, Newcastle pushed forward, and they were eventually rewarded for their renewed endeavour when Yoann Gouffran broke the deadlock, escaping his man on a free kick to head past a statuesque Petr Cech.
The goal, which came in the 68th minute, finally woke Chelsea up (the introduction of Samuel Eto'o and Willian, both of whom did more than the starting front four combined, probably helped as well) and blue shirts flooded forward. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa did well to save from an angled shot from Eto'o, which would have been more impressive had it been legal for him to use his hand to do it, and Krul managed to stop a vicious drive from Willian before Mike Williamson scrambled the ball to safety.
But the problem with desperately trying to score is that it leaves you open at the back, and Newcastle were able to take advantage of that in the 88th minute. A simple move resulted in Loic Remy, in acres of space, firing in off the post to complete the scoring and kill the game.
I hate November.