Newcastle 1-2 Chelsea: Winners and losers from St. James Park
Although they may have left it late, Chelsea continued their impressive start to the season as they made it three victories on the bounce on Sunday.
A game that had three goals in the final 11 minutes and plenty of drama at both ends, Maurizio Sarri’s revitalised Chelsea side came away with a hard-fought three points at a ground that has caused them so much disappointment in the past.
Previously without a win in the North East in the past seven seasons, the Blues had to bide their time as Newcastle offered them very little in the first 45.
While the Magpies did remain resilient at the start of the second half, their afternoon looked to have come to an end when the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty for Schar’s tackle on Marcos Alonso.
With the impressive Eden Hazard returning from the start and confidently dispatching the spot kick, there lead only lasted just seven minutes when substitute Joselu brilliantly headed home from DeAndre Yedlin’s cross.
While he may have helped save the day at one end, the American was then at the heart of the action for all the wrong reasons. After the Magpies failed to clear their lines, Alonso’s effort was deflected off of Yedlin and nestled in the bottom corner.
With Chelsea one of just three teams who have managed to win all of their opening fixtures, here’s a look at the winners and losers from St. James’ Park:
Making his first Premier League start since leading Belgium to a third-place finish at the World Cup, Eden Hazard renounced his position as Sarri’s main man.
Despite being on the receiving end of three heavy challenges inside the first half an hour, the 27-year-old never backed down from the challenge and was constantly at the heart of everything good Chelsea produced.
Replacing Willian and starting on the left of Sarri’s attacking trio, the Belgian talisman constantly found himself inside and pulling the strings.
Converting from the penalty spot in emphatic fashion, Hazard also wrote his own piece of individual history by scoring his 70th Premier League goal for Chelsea. Now only Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard have scored more goals for the Blues.
Although Sarri said in midweek that he would only be able to play until the hour mark, Hazard completed the full 90 minutes and was rightfully named as the Man of the Match.
Many around Stamford Bridge, Sarri included, must be counting down the hours until the Spanish transfer window slams shut.
Scoring his first goal of the new season in Chelsea’s 3-2 win over Arsenal, Alvaro Morata must have hoped this was the start of a new chapter to his tenure at Stamford Bridge.
However, much like it was against Huddersfield in the Blues’ Premier League opener, the £70 million man failed to make any kind of impact on the game.
A heavy touch that saw his only opportunity at goal go squandering, the Spanish international was replaced by Olivier Giroud with 25 minutes to go and had a look of frustration on his face.
Now with just two goals in 2018, while Chelsea’s midfield trio did try their best to get Morata involved, they could never get on the same page and the former Real Madrid man always looked a step behind the pace.
The man who controls the tempo of Chelsea’s game, the Italian has already made a lasting impression in West London.
Although the result was far from routine, Jorginho had another stand out performance at the heart of Sarri’s midfield.
With the Blues ending the 90 minutes with 81% of the possession, the former Napoli man was a key reason for Hazard’s freedom.
Sitting in front of David Luiz and Antonio Rüdiger, Jorginho had more touches than any player on the pitch and finished the afternoon with a pass accuracy of 91.3%.
Already forming an eye-catching partnership with N’Golo Kante, Chelsea’s number five remarkably completed 158 passes, more than the whole Newcastle side could manage combined.
That also means only IIkay Gundogan and Fernandinho have completed more passes in a single game in Premier League history.
With Rafael Benitez making six changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Cardiff last week, many around St. James’ Park were surprised to see that club captain Jamaal Lascelles wasn’t even named among the substitutes.
While the Newcastle boss claims that Lascelles missed out due to an ankle injury, reports have begun to circulate that the pair were involved in a heated dressing room bust-up.
Instead, with Benitez electing to hand debuts to both Fabian Schar and Federico Fernandez, the 24-year-old was forced to watch from the stands.
Even though Newcastle did defend valiantly, especially in the first half, it is believed that Lascelles voiced his disapproval at being told he would play on the right of Benitez’s three central defends.
A day of protests outside of the stadium, the last thing Newcastle want is for their key defender feuding with the manager.
Although it may not have been as fluid as his Napoli side last season, Chelsea’s new boss has certainly improved the atmosphere in West London.
With the Blues previously being unable to win any match at St. James’ Park since 2011, while they may have been frustrated in the first half, Sarri kept to his gameplan and reaped the rewards.
Although there are still some defensive issues that need resolving, Chelsea did well to battle back from Newcastle’s controversial equalizer and Sarri’s mentality is beginning to show.
Only a few months on from their 3-0 drumming at Newcastle in Antonio Conte’s final match in charge, Sarri and his signings have added a new spark.
Now becoming just the fifth manager in the clubs history to win his first three Premier League games, many would have felt the Chelsea side of last season would not have shown a similar resolve.
While a point would have seen Benitez hailed as a hero, the former Chelsea boss saw his side finish with just 19% of the possession and his tactics came under heavy fire.
Very rarely making an appearance in Chelsea’s half aside from their one opportunity, Newcastle spent the majority of the 90 minutes camped on the edge of their own box.
With even the Chelsea boss saying he was surprised by Benitez’s ultra-defensive approach, their showing on Sunday is certainly not a style of football that St. James’ Park are willing to get behind.
Speaking after the match and saying he can only do the best with what he has at his disposal, Benitez’s position at Newcastle still seems as uncertain as it usually is.
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