Newcastle made an aggressive start to the game, where they set out to press Chelsea high in the corners, push up on the sides, and hold their defensive block in midfield.
Chelsea needed to play play through Newcastle's aggressive pressure on the ball to push them back deeper and then look to setup attacks from midfield. But Newcastle’s aggressive pressing, as they pushed up on the sides, would stop Chelsea from advancing on the wings.
However, holding the defensive block in midfield with a high defensive line (pressuring passes to feet of Chelsea’s front three) would leave space behind for long passes made by Chelsea’s central defenders when there wasn’t pressure on the ball. By running from the outside in (moving behind between Newcastle’s wing-backs and wide central defenders), Chelsea’s wingers were able to cause problems in defensive switching (it’s better for the wing-backs to forget the opposition fullbacks in these moments and follow the danger of the wingers run inside), which would see David Luiz find Pedro for Chelsea to take an early lead.
After this, Newcastle continued to play aggressively and kept themselves in the game, while Chelsea’s approach with the ball would see them lose possession far too often. With Newcastle’s defensive setup still leaving the option behind, Chelsea would attempt to play long balls to try to take advantage of this, but Willian failed to take advantage of his chances from these situations, and the other attempts didn’t reach their targets and gave the ball away. Chelsea’s other attempts of playing from midfield were through the middle to the front three, but they would often receive the ball under immediate pressure and against multiple opponents — which again would see Chelsea lose the ball.
With the ball, Newcastle could open up quickly, with the two wingers running behind, the wing-backs moving high and wide, while the backline, midfielders and goalkeeper could hold on to the ball to draw pressure. Upon pressure being drawn into their half, Newcastle’s backline and goalkeeper could then play long and forward passes to the frontline. When they played long from the sides they would find the far-side winger or wing-back. This first ball was important for Chelsea’s fullbacks to dominate in the air, since Newcastle’s spare player on the side of the ball (winger or wing-back) would be running behind and in space for the flick on.
The same situation would be found with long balls up to Rondon, where the wingers were running behind early for the flick on, which provided both Perez and Rondon (combining with Atsu) with a good opportunities to equalise. Newcastle continued to show danger from their direct play, counters and set pieces — the latter saw them find an equaliser.
Hazard and Willian’s quality saw Chelsea retake the lead early on in the second half, where Eden received and progressed with the ball against multiple opponents, drawing them towards him with the ball before finding Willian in space on the outside. Willian feinted to go down the line and quickly shifted inside and shot into the far corner to score.
After that, Chelsea would hold on to the ball but would not have the same amount of opportunities to play long passes behind Newcastle’s backline as they had in the first half, since Newcastle couldn’t maintain the same level of aggression and intensity as in the first half, and now were waiting for mistakes to counter. Other than the chance for Willian from the pass over the top (before the second goal), Chelsea’s possession couldn’t find a way into Newcastle's box. Newcastle controlled the middle, preventing combinations, and continued to push up on the wings, preventing Chelsea from getting behind out wide.
During the final stages of the half, Newcastle became more aggressive and pressed higher up again, maintained possession inside Chelsea’s half, created crossing opportunities and won set pieces. One cross from their right would see Rondon with a good chance at the far post, beating Azpilicueta in the air, and they had two opportunities in the final seconds of the match, with a shot inside the box by Longstaff to win the final corner, and Atsu wasting the overload at the far post from his ball into the box.
xG map for Chelsea - Newcastle.— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) January 12, 2019
much more fine than good from Chelsea but they didn't have any trouble containing the Magpies' "attack" pic.twitter.com/IcJtKXFrfe
Newcastle’s aggressive approach reduced Chelsea into playing long passes, but that backfired as Chelsea took advantage with an early lead and a number of other chances to score. But that approach would also see Chelsea lose the ball often in the first half, from which Newcastle could start their own attacks. Having gone into the break level, Chelsea then made a good start to the second half with a chance for Pedro, before Hazard and Willian made the difference to regain the lead. Newcastle’s deep defending remained strong and Chelsea had very few chances to extend their lead, and allowed a late opportunity for Newcastle to equalise that they didn’t take.