So. In the end, a routine win, although had you put the ultimate result as a 'routine win' to anyone watching most of the first half they'd probably have laughed at you. Chelsea looked wobbly early against Newcastle and could easily have gone behind, but a break-breaking goal at halftime courtesy of a combination of Oscar and the Toon defence going to sleep meant that we could cruise to a vital three points.
As openings go, this one was closer to that game against Swansea that led to Cesc Fabregas abandoning his suicidal early-season positioning than to the debacle at White Hart Lane. Newcastle flew into us with a high and heavy press, and we looked completely discombobulated. Nemanja Matic's dynamism was nullified, Cesar Azpilicueta was repeatedly roasted by Remy Cabella, and the visitors had plenty of chances to go ahead.
Petr Cech was called into action on numerous occasions, saving well from Remy Cabella and Yoann Gouffran, and the rest of the Chelsea defence was called upon to make a series of worrying last-ditch blocks. Moussa Sissokho sent our collective hearts jumping mouthwards when he cut into the space vacated by the injured Azpilicueta* and rattled the post, and all we had in reply was a botched counterattack that saw Diego Costa pass to Jack Colback instead of shooting.
*Who was immediately replaced by Filipe Luis.
And then the corner happened. Goals scored from quick corners are rare simply because of the way defensive positioning works -- they need to be won off a fast break, the defender winning the corner needs to go out of play and the whole team has to turn off -- and I'm pretty sure that I've never seen a goal quite like Oscar's before.
With Fabricio Coloccini wandering out of play after knocking the ball over the byline and the rest of Newcastle's defence completely out of position, Willian rolled a quick corner to Branislav Ivanovic. The Serbian had time, space and, most importantly, options in the box, and he picked out Oscar at the back post for an easy finish. It was 1-0 Chelsea, and that despite some very sloppy play and the Magpies throwing the kitchen sink at us for most of the first half.
Willian might have made it 2-0 with a smart free kick (won by Costa), but the one goal was far more than we really deserved, and Tim Krul was on hand to parry the Brazilian's effort. And then it was halftime, which was marked on everyone's calendar as GET YELLED AT BY JOSE, underlined about twelve times, circled with a red pen and decorated by >:( faces.
Whatever he said, it worked. After bossing the first half, Newcastle did approximately nothing after the interval. Their two second-half shots were both taken from a good 30 yards, and there was basically zero pressure on Cech's goal after the Blues took the lead. Much of that was to do with a proactive display from Kurt Zouma, who got the start over the flagging Gary Cahill and seized his opportunity with both hands. The 20-year-old had a superb second half, absolutely wrecking the visitors whenever they had the temerity to go up against him, and it'd be a surprise if didn't get further opportunities after his showing today.
But the real story was that the match was now completely under control, with Matic and Fabregas thoroughly stamping their authority onto proceedings. Possession freed up the front four the play more inventively, and it was clear that there were more goals in the match. Coloccini got a break after handling a Costa cross, but that merely put off the inevitable, and minutes later Chelsea had doubled their advantage.
The goal was Costa's but it was truly a team effort. After winning possession high up the pitch, the ball came to Eden Hazard, who picked out Oscar's run with a clipped pass. Instead of going for goal, as Newcastle were expecting, Oscar improvised a ridiculous aerial backheel, freeing up Costa to run onto the ball, take a touch, and slot in at the far post. He was pleased by this turn of events:
Newcastle were never coming back after two goals, and the only question left was whether Chelsea would be able to add another. Unfortunately, we weren't, but that wasn't for lack of trying -- Coloccini managed to ruin a goal of the season candidate from Costa with a desperate clearance which came after the big man beat four defenders and then Krul with an extraordinary run.
While a 1-0 lead was fortunate in the extreme after the disappointing first half, only scoring one in the second completely fails to underline the Blues' complete superiority after halftime. The 2-0 win was, ultimately, thoroughly deserved.
And just before the final whistle, we got news that Manchester City had been held by Everton at Goodison Park. What's that phrase again? Top of the league, having a laugh, right?