Newcastle United 1 Chelsea 2
- Paul Tierney
A late own goal from DeAndre Yedlin ended Chelsea’s St. James’ Park hoodoo and condemned Newcastle United to an agonising defeat at St. James’ Park.
After a goalless opening 75 minutes, in which they had huffed and puffed without being able to find a way past the Magpies’ Martin Dúbravka, the Blues took the lead through Eden Hazard’s penalty after new boy Fabian Schär’s foul on Marcos Alonso.
Substitute Joselu quickly restored parity with a fine header in front of a joyous Gallowgate End, but – with virtually their next attack – Chelsea got back in front after Yedlin inadvertently guided Alonso’s low-struck effort beyond Dúbravka and into the corner of the net.
And that was to prove the decisive moment, with Rafa Benítez’s side unable to hit back for a second time.
Jacob Murphy’s sixth-minute shot – which rolled narrowly wide of the far post – certainly wasn’t typical of an opening half-hour in which Chelsea enjoyed almost all of the ball. That turned out to be the Magpies’ only meaningful attempt early on, with Maurizio Sarri’s side largely untroubled in possession.
However, despite the best efforts of Hazard, the Blues struggled to penetrate United’s five-man backline. The Belgian international twice took aim himself, side-footing narrowly wide from 20 yards before drilling just past the upright after a marauding run to the edge of the penalty area.
Out of nothing, though, Newcastle almost took the lead after 34 minutes. After Matt Ritchie’s set-piece was nodded away from goal, Federico Fernández helped the ball back into the area, and fellow debutant Salomón Rondón’s downward header dropped just the wrong side of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s right-hand post.
Chelsea responded by moving up a gear before the interval. They twice came close through Spaniard Pedro, who curled high and wide from a good position after cutting inside, before seeing a low-struck effort held by Dúbravka after another Hazard run.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first. In fact, if anything, Chelsea’s stronghold only increased, with the Magpies hardly able to get a touch of the ball. Skipper César Azpilicueta saw a first-time strike held by Dúbravka after meeting Pedro’s cutback, but again, the Blues were finding it hard to create anything clear-cut.
Looking to freshen things up, Sarri threw on Olivier Giroud and Willian midway through the half. However, it was a far less likely name – Antonio Rüdiger – who came within a whisker of opening the scoring 20 minutes from time. After finding a pocket of space in the middle of the park, the German took aim from all of 30 yards, but – with Dúbravka beaten – his thumping drive came back off the crossbar.
Just as the Blues looked to be running out of ideas in open play, though, they were gift-wrapped the chance to draw first blood after Schär was adjudged to have tripped full-back Alonso on the edge of the six-yard box. Dúbravka guessed the right way, but Hazard’s spot kick had too much power on it and hit the back of the net.
At that point, United had barely ventured into the opposing half after the break – let alone threaten Arrizabalaga. But, with seven minutes to play, Joselu – brought on in place of Rondón on the hour-mark – got across his marker and superbly guided Yedlin’s cross past the ‘keeper at his near post.
There was still time for a late sting in the tail, though. After moving across from his position on the opposite flank, Alonso got a shot away from the right-hand side of the area, and Yedlin’s unfortunate intervention only succeeded in diverting the Spaniard’s effort back on target and beyond a helpless Dúbravka.