By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 2 (Hazard 22pen, Torres 45)
Newcastle United 0
Newcastle United tasted defeat for the first time this season, as they went down 2-0 away at Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.
First half goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres were enough to see off the Magpies - who put in a much-improved second half performance at Stamford Bridge.
Hazard netted the opener from the penalty spot after Torres was adjudged to have been upended by Vurnon Anita just inside the box, and then turned provider, back-heeling into the path of Torres, who applied a superb finish with the outside of his right boot to double the advantage with half-time approaching.
After the break United dominated for large spells and Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse all could have provided a thrilling comeback, but they were ultimately unable to find a way past a resolute Blues defence.
The opening exchanges saw Chelsea - unsurprisingly - have the lion's share of possession, but without creating any clear cut openings.
Raul Meireles had the first sighter on five minutes but, from fully 30 yards, it was going to have to be something special to trouble Tim Krul and sailed comfortably high and wide. And soon after, midfield partner John Obi Mikel was even further off target when he tried his luck from a similar range.
On 13 minutes, Hatem Ben Arfa - who had drifted into the middle of the park - lofted a ball over the top of the Chelsea defence for Demba Ba to latch on to. The Senegalese hit man took it first time on the stretch but was unable to keep the difficult volley down.
The Blues' response was immediate as Hazard forced Krul into the first save of the match with a low 20-yard strike which was simple for the stopper to gather, and then Ryan Bertrand fired straight at United's keeper, having been played into space on the edge of the area by Torres.
And their pressure finally told in the 22nd minute as the hosts were awarded a penalty. Torres skipped past the challenge of Santon and then went down under an attempted tackle from Anita, with referee Phil Dowd having no hesitation in pointing at the spot.
Hazard stepped up and although Krul guessed the right way, he was unable to keep out the low strike which nestled in the bottom left corner of his net.
Just past the half hour mark, Krul had to be alert to prevent Chelsea full-back Branislav Ivanovic from netting his third goal in as many games. The Serbian had galloped forward to connect with Ashley Cole's left-wing delivery, only to see Krul fly to his right and hold the powerful header.
Hazard almost doubled his - and the hosts' - tally for the afternoon on 36 minutes when a poor defensive header from Steven Taylor landed at his feet, but taking it on the half volley, the Belgian playmaker drilled a rising effort narrowly off target.
Ba and Papiss Cisse had struggled to make an impact in the final third, but that all changed with five minutes of the half remaining.
First, Ba could only head Cisse's right-wing cross over the top as it reached him at the far post, shortly before a Cisse snapshot had Petr Cech plucking it out of the air above his head before it had the net rippling.
And the visitors were left to rue that miss as Chelsea doubled their lead right on the stroke of half-time.
As they raced forward towards the edge of the area, Torres exchanged passes with Hazard, and when the ball came back to him courtesy of a delightful back-heel, the Spaniard applied an equally impressive right-foot finish to swerve it into the top corner.
United went into the second period knowing they had to drag themselves back into the contest sooner rather than later and Ben Arfa almost provided that seven minutes after the restart.
Receiving the ball on the edge of the area, the French international jinked past his marker, working the ball onto his favoured left foot and drove a low strike across goal which was inches the wrong side of the far upright.
That seemed to spark the Magpies into life, and both Jonas Gutierrez and Cisse saw chances come and go as the visitors looked much more purposeful and productive in the final third.
Ba almost reduced the deficit on 59 minutes. Latching onto a loose ball after Yohan Cabaye's shot had struck a Chelsea body, the forward held off his marker but was unable to plant a left-foot drive under Cech from a tight angle, as the keeper deflected it behind for a corner.
That nearly had an immediate impact as the versatile Scouser sent a corner right underneath the Chelsea crossbar, but the hosts managed to clear the danger.
And the ploy came even closer on 68 minutes as Ryan Taylor swung a left-wing free-kick right onto the head of Cisse at the far post, only for the normally-prolific striker to head over the top when it looked sure to end in a goal.
Two further substitutions were made by the visitors, with Sylvain Marveaux and James Perch replacing Davide Santon and Yohan Cabaye, but it was Chelsea who nearly added the next goal with ten minutes left on the clock.
The Stamford Bridge crowd encouraged Bertrand to shoot as the ball fell at his feet 25 yards out, and the left-sided player obliged - striding forward before unleashing a fierce drive which Krul brilliantly tipped past the post at full stretch.
On 84 minutes Ba came as close as anyone to getting the goal which Newcastle's second half performance deserved.
Marveaux did well to flight a cross to the far post, where Ryan Taylor headed it intelligently back across goal and into the path of Ba. Last season's leading scorer fluffed his first-time shot but the ball fell kindly at his feet for a second attempt, which Cech got down well to keep out.
That was the Magpies' final chance of the evening as they slipped to defeat, but will have been buoyed by an much-improved second half display at the end of a gruelling schedule of three games in seven days.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech (c); Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Ashley Cole; John Obi Mikel, Raul Meireles (Frank Lampard 87); Juan Mata (Ramires 67), Eden Hazard, Ryan Bertrand; Fernando Torres
Subs not used: Ross Turnbull, Oriol Romeu, Michael Essien, Oscar, Daniel Sturridge
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson (Ryan Taylor 64), Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon (Sylvain Marveaux 74); Hatem Ben Arfa, Vurnon Anita, Yohan Cabaye (James Perch 77), Jonas Gutierrez; Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
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