It’s pretty obvious we’re right up against it here.
In between the negative publicity, angry protests and outpourings of historic revision from Ashley and Bishop’s paid henchmen on various peripheral media outlets, the actual matches have played something of a second fiddle so far, but on Sunday it all seemed to come together against the glum backdrop of a dying summer.
Our club seemed to be staggering on the ropes from the outset, but a few more body blows were soon landed.
Bang – Shelvey injured. Bang – Lascelles injured. Bang bang bang – Lascelles rumoured to be dropped, not injured, following a bust up with Rafa over the negative three centre halves formation. Oh God. You can throw in a couple of subtle jabs as well, if also considering that we had 3 players on full debut and Chelsea’s team had an average cost of £35 million per player. Gonna have to watch this between the fingers lads.
This was true, as it turned out to be a dreadful, miserable forgettable game that was hard work for those of us with a vested interest, so thump knows how many of the neutral audience watching on Sky stuck the full 90. Rafa had set the team up for solid defence, with the imposing figure of Fernandez slotting in alongside Schar and Clark in that dreaded 5-man backline. They were organised, tidy and ensured the game was a turgid non-affair for long, long periods.
Predictably, this brought about a backlash on Rafa in the same style as the Man City game last year. Of course the henchmen were all over it, huddled over their Twitter like dishevelled hobbits, gleefully rubbishing Rafa in a way that somehow is supposed to vindicate Ashley I assume. Sky didn’t like it either of course, and their resident rent-a-tw.ts threw their opinion in, but this performance also served to divide Newcastle fans I think, many feeling the negative energy around this season was demoralising enough without having to sit through this.
Of course, the stupidest, most vindictive prick out there at the minute is Richard Keys, and he did not disappoint in giving the most backward and insulting opinion possible; that Newcastle fans would rather lose 5-4 than win 1-0. Let’s ignore the fact that this is harking back to the 90s Keegan era of cavalier football, which seems to be allowed, whereas harking back to the 90s era of Newcastle challenging Man Utd and Arsenal for the title is the stuff of deluded nonsense. Let’s just focus on the backward logic of that statement.
We have twice gone out of the Premier League in circumstances where gaining one extra point across the season would have kept us up. This isn’t an opinion, there is an answer. It’s better to win playing ugly than lose magnificently. If you think otherwise you’re wrong and you deserve the next manager.
The reason we have to play like this is because the opposition cost about half a billion quid to assemble. We have been gradually eroded by transfer decisions by committee, based on people’s age and sell on value as opposed to whether they are needed in the team, and even then sporadic investment being given seemingly only when the wrong people are in charge as a result of a bungling appointment process. Meanwhile figures are manipulated, income streams are stifled and large parts of profit sit in mysterious limbo.
Yes, this was dismal, as Rondon chased gamely around up front feeding on scraps, but you can’t give someone cucumber and rice cakes then say the meal they’ve prepared is a little bit bland.
Anyway, I’ve got to say some of this kind of stuff, so: Murphy tried gamefully on the left but his early shot on target was easily saved by Kepa when the unmarked player to his left looked to be the best option, even if it was Paul Dummett. Rondon had his best chance when Fernandez returned the second ball from a free kick but headed wide when he surely had to hit the target.
Chelsea bided their time ahead of the wall of defence but Hazard looked likely to be the pain in the arse he always is. Also, the ref gradually betrayed himself as being bent as a nine bob note, as Chelsea got free kicks for every swan dive while proving themselves unbookable. I’m sure Kovacic had a knuckle duster out at one point, but it might just be that he looks the type.
The sitting back continued second half, with Rudiger smashing one against the bar from 30 yards rather than attempting to work his way through the wall of black and whit ahead. Rafa’s plan would have been to press a bit more with fresh legs at the end and try to nick one, but the introduction of Joselu then Perez combined to lose out to a counter attack, Chelsea went haring forward, Alonso tumbled over Schar’s challenge and obviously their mate gave it. Even more obviously Hazard knocked it in and this depressing afternoon had its cherry on the top.
The decision was dubious but surely Schar’s reaction spoke volumes, raging at the time, to the fourth official when substituted, in post match interviews and I can only assume in the Duke of Wellington at chucking out time, such was his sense of indignation.
Chelsea had made a rather bizarre move, withdrawing Morata for Celebrity Big Brother host Rylan Clark-Neal in what I can only assume must be some sort of Shoreditch based job share arrangement. This proved to be their downfall though, as Clark-Neal got himself in a tangle that involved him maliciously head butting DeAndre Yedlin’s elbow. The former X-Factor finalist went down like a bag of spuds and Yedlin delivered a magnificent cross for the onrushing Joselu to smartly head in at the near post in a near replica of his Tottenham goal. Lovely stuff, relief, delirium.
Didn’t last though, course it didn’t. Yedlin turned Alonso’s scruffy shot into his own net 5 minutes later to inflict the day’s final body blow. This lucky late winner of course vindicated the anti-Rafa brigade as this minuscule margin of defeat would have been overturned had we went blaring forward from the off.
Some hard yards these days mind.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Chelsea 2
Chelsea: Hazard 76 (Pen), Yedlin 87 (OG)
Possession was Chelsea 81% Newcastle 19%
Total shots were Chelsea 15 Newcastle 6
Shots on target were Chelsea 3 Newcastle 2
Corners were Chelsea 5 Newcastle 4
Referee: Paul Tierney
Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar (Muto 79), Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie, Ki, Diame, Murphy (Perez 73), Rondon (Joselu 62)
Darlow, Sterry, Longstaff, Atsu
Crowd: 51,791 (3,200 Chelsea)
(Alan Shearer finds result a ‘sickener’ – Read HERE)
(Match ratings for NUFC players from one of our writers HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle 1 Chelsea 2 – Read HERE)
(Was Rafa Benitez right to use such negative tactics considering players he had available and quality of opposition? Vote HERE)
(Rafa Benitez gives post-match update on Shelvey and Lascelles injuries HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf