Barclays Premier League
By Anthony Marshall, at Stamford Bridge...
Chelsea 2 (Ivanovic 2, Alex 83)
Newcastle United 2 (Gutierrez 10, S Taylor 90)
Steven Taylor's injury-time header snatched a well-deserved point for Newcastle away at Chelsea with a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
It looked like they would go away from London empty-handed when Brazilian defender Alex converted Frank Lampard's free-kick with just seven minutes left on the clock, and it would have been harsh on the Magpies, who had put in an excellent performance throughout, despite missing several key players.
But Steven Taylor pounced with seconds remaining to nod in and seal a share of the spoils for Alan Pardew's side.
Earlier, Branislav Ivanovic put the home side in front after just two minutes with a close-range finish, before Ryan Taylor's free-kick took a huge deflection off teammate Jonas Gutierrez to leave Petr Cech stranded and find the back of the net.
Ivanovic had been presented with Chelsea's Player of the Season award before kick-off and highlighed exactly why within the opening two minutes.
Having forced a corner with a superb low delivery across the face of goal, the resulting Frank Lampard flag kick was flicked into his path by Fernando Torres, and Ivanovic prodded past the helpless Tim Krul from close range.
But Newcastle's equalised with their first sight of goal in the 10th minute. Peter Lovenkrands was felled by John Terry 25 yards out, which earned the Chelsea and England skipper a booking, and Ryan Taylor saw his free-kick strike the back of teammate Jonas Gutierrez and bounce past stranded Blues keeper Petr Cech.
After that the game struggled to find any real rhythm, with centre-back Alex going closest for the hosts on 19 minutes with a volley which flashed just wide, before a deflected Frank Lampard cross almost wrong-footed Krul.
Ryan Taylor wasn't too far away with another free-kick, but from the best part of 35 yards it was maybe a bit optimistic even for the Magpies' set piece specialist, and :Lovenkrands was inches away from connecting with a left-wing Shane Ferguson cross which surely would have resulted in another goal for the visitors.
Yossi Benayoun and Nicolas Anelka should have both done better with efforts early in the second half, particularly the latter, who snatched at a volley from around eight yards and failed to even hit the target.
Left-back Ashley Cole snuck in at the far posts to connect with an Ivanovic cross in the 54th minute, but saw his header deflected behind and then stand-in captain Joey Barton made an outstanding block to prevent Fernando Torres scoring only his second goal for the Blues. Barton flung himself full-length in front of the £50million striker as the Chelsea man pulled the trigger inside the six-yard box.
Having spent much of the opening moments of the second half on the defensive, Newcastle suddenly imposed themselves at the other end of the pitch. Jonas Gutierrez, deployed in a free role off front man Shola Ameobi, cut inside from the left touchline to curl a low effort towards the far corner which Cech did well to save.
And on the hour mark yet another Ryan Taylor free-kick forced the Chelsea stopper into action, with Cech having to save a tricky effort which came through a body of players.
If evidence was needed as to how impressive Newcastle had been at Stamford Bridge then a triple change by Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti summed it up as he brought on the big guns of Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba, for Josh McEachran, Ramires and Benayoun.
Alan Pardew reacted by making a couple of substitutions of his own, introducing Kazenga LuaLua for his first appearance since November, with the wide man having recovered from a broken leg sustained while on loan at Brighton, and also replacing Gutierrez with Nile Ranger.
Lovenkrands sent an acrobatic volley wide of the target on 80 minutes after good approach work from Jose Enrique, and Sammy Ameobi was brought on for his Newcastle debut with eight minutes remaining, meaning he lined up in the same side as older brother Shola.
But seconds after the 19-year-old's arrival the Magpies were dealt a cruel blow. Goalkeeper Krul came rushing off his line to deal with a high, hanging Lampard free-kick, but Chelsea defender Alex got their first to thump home a header into the unguarded net.
A United equaliser almost arrived in the final minute as first Cech plucked a cross off the head of Ranger, before Ryan Taylor's diving header was deflected behind.
However, from the resulting corner Ranger nodded back across goal and Steven Taylor was on hand to head home from a couple of yards and send the away following into raptures.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry (c), Alex, Ashley Cole; Ramires (Florent Malouda 65), Frank Lampard, Josh McEachran (Michael Essien 65); Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun (Didier Drogba 65)
Subs not used: Ross Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, David Luiz, John Obi Mikel
Newcastle United (4-4-1-1): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique; Peter Lovenkrands (Sammy Ameobi 82), Joey Barton (c), Ryan Taylor, Shane Ferguson (Kazenga LuaLua 69); Jonas Gutierrez (Nile Ranger 76); Shola Ameobi
Subs not used: Ole Soderberg, James Tavernier, Alan Smith, Shefki Kuqi