Chelsea 2 Newcastle United 1
- Chris Kavanagh
Newcastle United were beaten by Champions League-chasing Chelsea despite a battling performance at Stamford Bridge.
Just as when the two sides met at St. James' Park, Rafa Benítez's side fought back after going behind to the Blues, but eventually ended up with nothing to show for their endeavours.
Injuries to Jonjo Shelvey, Mohamed Diamé and Paul Dummett, as well as Ki Sung-yueng and Yoshinori Muto's involvement in the Asian Cup and Kenedy being unable to face his parent club, saw Sean Longstaff handed a first Premier League start, while Florian Lejeune made his first league appearance since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament in pre-season.
A tough task was made even more difficult for Newcastle when the home side took the lead in the ninth minute, Pedro lofting the ball over Martin Dúbravka from 12 yards after racing onto David Luiz's ball over the top of the United defence.
But the Magpies dug in and - after Luiz had headed over from a Willian free-kick - began to worry the Chelsea defence, with Salomón Rondón bringing team-mates into play at every opportunity.
In the 26th minute Lejeune hit a powerful volley from 20 yards after César Azpilicueta's defensive header dropped invitingly, then Christian Atsu and Salomón Rondón combined nicely, with United's top scorer firing narrowly off target.
Pedro went in search of his second of the evening in the 33rd minute, but his long-range shot was easily held by Dúbravka.
Two minutes later, Rondón beat Luiz in the air to flick the ball into the path of Ayoze Pérez, but - under pressure from Azpilicueta - the Spaniard could only drag his effort wide.
Moments later, Willian shot wide for Chelsea and at the beginning of the second half, Dúbravka was required to make a fantastic save from Pedro, with the goalkeeper diving to his right to push the Spain international's shot behind.
But there was nothing he could do in the 57th minute when Willian cut inside from the left and curled an excellent right-footed strike in off the far post.
Newcastle had an appeal for a penalty when Pérez went down under Antonio Rüdiger after exchanging passes with Rondón, then Chelsea nearly made it three through Willian, who was denied by another great Dúbravka save.
In the 81st minute, Ritchie fired off target after bringing down DeAndre Yedlin's cross but despite Benítez making a double change, with Jacob Murphy and Javier Manquillo replacing Pérez and Yedlin, the Magpies couldn't find an equaliser for a second time.
The closest they came was in the 86th minute, when Rondón climbed to meet Manquillo's looping right-wing cross but couldn't direct his far post header on target.
United had dropped into the bottom three before kick-off and this result means they stayed there, but Benítez's side showed enough fighting spirit here to suggest that they're capable of climbing away from danger.