Beloved Antonio Conte's Blues handed out a fair beating to far less beloved Rafael Benítez and his Magpies in Saturday’s lunchtime 3-1 win. Although the performance was not perfect, especially on the play that gave Newcastle their lone score, it still was a fairly dominant performance that saw Chelsea collect another three points at the Bridge.
There was once again a bit of rotation in the starting eleven. Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger retained their places from midweek, with Gary Cahill dropped so César Azpilicueta could return. In midfield, Danny Drinkwater was given his second Premier League start, next to N'Golo Kanté and Cesc Fàbregas; while upfront, our attacking efforts would be lead by Eden Hazard and Álvaro Morata. Last but not least, Victor Moses was making his first start since recovring from his hamstring injury.
After Swansea's complete lack of incisiveness on Wednesday, it was almost shocking to see the visitors trying to impose themselves on the game at the start. And while Newcastle were not nearly as effective as a top six team would’ve been in putting the heat on Chelsea, they were still way more dangerous with their high lines and effective pressure.
Newcastle’s early forays forward came largely through Ayoze Pérez, who was looking to get in space behind Victor Moses, to exploit the Chelsea wing-back’s runs forward. The plan was working well, though Newcastle’s goal came from slightly luckier circumstances.
A deep pass from centre-back Florian Lejeune met striker Dwight Gayle near the half-circle of Chelsea's penalty area, who got the better of Christensen — via an uncalled handball, it should be noted — to play the ball towards Murphy, whose speed was too much for Chelsea's defence to handle. Marcos Alonso's attempt to clear the ball was rather a shot at his own keeper, allowing Newcastle to continue the play and Gayle to score on the rebound after the parry. Nothing nice about that goal, but they all count the same.
Giving up a score on 13 minutes against any opponent is far from ideal. Luckily for us, Eden Hazard often is ideal, and he had some wonderful plans in mind for today — despite the usual amount of kicks and fouls that he would have to endure once again.
The equalizer came from Chelsea's right flank, which, with Moses back, looked strong and involved all game long.
The already classic connection between Azpilicueta and Morata was this time around blocked, but the rebound fell to Eden, who was free to drive the box and take a long powerful shot. Goalkeeper Karl Darlow, who had made a tremendous stop once already to deny Hazard, could not quite gather his shot and Hazard bounced it in from the rebound.
The equaliser only galvanized Chelsea into further action, as the Blues began to dominate proceedings. Although Newcastle tried to get forward again by pushing back up a bit, it was all fruitless as Chelsea continued to pin them down. Moses especially was starting find his feet but Chelsea’s left wing remained fairly anonymous.
Crosses and passes were flooding into Newcastle's box, and Chelsea were drawing closer to grabbing the lead with each of these opportunities. Eventually, it overflowed.
Playing on the left flank of Chelsea's three-man defence, Rüdiger did his best David Luiz impression by attempting to swtich the ball to the opposite flank for Moses. The ball was underhit but cleared awfully, gifting Moses the opportunity to get his cross in. Who was there on the end of it? Álvaro Morata of course!
Half-time arrived, with the 2-1 scoreline taking most of the wind out of Newcastle’s sails.
Without any changes at half-time, the pattern of play resumed in the second half, with Chelsea running the show and almost everybody taking their foot off the gas a little. One player who didn’t let up was Eden Hazard, who had no less than 9 of Cheslea’s 23 total shots (6 on target), flying in the face of his usual habits of passing up shots to create for others. Or maybe he just wanted his hat-trick.
Hazard’s efforts were added from midfield by Cesc, Morata and also Moses, and it was the latter who won a penalty just past the 70th-minute mark. Moses’s burst of speed was good enough to get on the end of the defence-splitting pass, with the Magpies’ defender’s sliding tackle taking man before ball. Hazard stepped up and chipped it in rather cheekily.
Following our third goal, Benítez tried to put a stop to his side’s awfulness by taking off defensive-minded midfielder Mohamed Diamé for
practitioner of Dark Arts Lord Voldemort Jonjo Shelvey. But instead of helping his side take back control of the match, Shelvey’s first touch almost gave Eden a chance for his hat-trick.
Alas, there was to be no hat-trick, with Conte deciding 12 minutes from time to hand out rests and an opportunity to lap up some applause by substituting off Fàbregas and Hazard and Christensen, and introducing Bakayoko, Willian, and Gary Cahill. The substitutions came with new instructions, this time not via notes but via shouts from Conte instead. Chelsea dropped the tempo of the game down a few notches; Newcastle must’ve done the same as Chelsae were still finding it easy to create danger.
A few silly plays at either end later, referee Kevin Friend brought an end to the proceedings. Three goals and three points for Chelsea!
Despite the inability to keep a clean sheet thanks to the defensive system being out of sync for the first minutes of the game, Chelsea had another good performance — iwth Eden Hazard a step above — and, most importantly, the result we were all looking for. Moses showed that when healthy, he remains Chelsea's best option at right wing-back as well, and it sure is nice to have him back!
Next up: Atlético Madrid on Tuesday.
COME ON, CHELSEA!
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