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Match Reports

Newcastle United: Out of Control

2 months ago
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It was the early hours of Sunday morning when I returned home hammered, turned on the TV and saw Teddy Sheringham dressed as a tree singing some pop ballad and I knew straight away that it wasn’t the most bizarre thing I had seen that night.

I had also seen Newcastle United beat Chelsea.

Before the game everyone had told me that Chelsea, brimming with new young English talent with a forward-thinking manager would easily beat Newcastle, even the bookies thought so.

Even though Chelsea don’t win very often up here.

Even though the game at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season had been close.

Even though United had vital players back from injury, Ritchie, Lascelles and ASM back in the squad.

So was Newcastle’s victory over Chelsea really that bizarre?

For half an hour or so it was fairly even. Chelsea had most of the ball, this season only Rochdale have not suffered that fate, but Newcastle were organised and defensively resilient.

With only one serious injury to contend with in the first part of the match, United’s goal was rarely troubled.

The distinctly average Mason Mount headed wide when well placed and Dubravka made a super double save from first Kante and then quickly collecting a vicious return cross in a crowded six-yard box. United had the best two chances, Joelinton hit the bar which looked from my seat like a free header which he should have scored from but I have been reliably informed from those watching on TV that it was officially “a good effort”. Minutes later Fernandez got himself into a tangle and could only head wide when well placed. Then Chelsea took control, something they would only relinquish in the 93rd minute according to their boss.

‘Being Frank: Looking in Total Control there Frank’

Most games this season have fallen into a very similar pattern. United defend the home end in the first half, sit like a squashed triangle thirty yards out and defend for their lives. The opposition either see this as an invitation to pile forward, or play the patient waiting game, mistaking possession for threat. If either plan brings an away goal, then the game changes. If it doesn’t bring a goal, well Newcastle are in no rush. Chelsea opted for the waiting game. They shouldn’t have. United can defend that all day, especially with captain Lascelles in the mix. He headed, kicked and shouted everything away from goal.

The second half came and went in a blink of a yawn.

Chelsea had the ball but it mostly went to Jorginho who had more touches than the entire NUFC team and did nothing with all of them. Far too ponderous, he didn’t have the imagination to pass through the Toon defence or the confidence to shoot from 25 yards when he had the space to do it. Tammy Abraham was twice foiled when the forward seemed certain to score, once by Dubravka and the athletics both players had to do to get anywhere near the ball, once when he rounded the keeper and missed. We’ve all done it, though perhaps not for 150k a week.

Chelsea had few other chances.

The marvellous Willian, the new Nobby Solano, waited too long to go for goal when put into the channel on the left side in one of the few times United lost their shape, Ciaran Clark’s impression of a left winger hopefully his last. Apart from that there wasn’t much. Reece James even found time to sit down and pretend to be injured though fortunately he wasn’t, it was just a very strenuous throw-in which had tired him out. These Chelsea players are only young you know. Bottle and bed.

To say that we anticipated that the Toon would get something would be misleading. Certainly, the crowd began to suspect that Chelsea wouldn’t get anything and that was a hand worth biting off. Then Joelinton started his new goal drought, scuffing a last-minute chance wide. 0-0 then. No chance. Not with Chelsea’s goalkeeper around. The only decent cross of the match, an ASM beauty, a Joelinton assist, he went for and missed the ball and that was probably the best thing he could have done, Hayden nosed it in at the back post past the hapless Kepa. Cue carnage. Matt Ritchie booted the corner flag into someone’s plums, plums which no doubt felt as bad as my head the next morning.

‘Matt Ritchie: Welcome back from everyone except that bloke who got it in the nads’

A miraculous three points from true graft then. The sort of graft that teams like Chelsea never seem capable of and is probably the main reason they are “struggling”. Struggling according to the Cockneys I spoke to after the game in the Bodega and Tilleys anyway.

They were mostly quite sensible about the qualities of their team, their young players and their new manager. When I first started watching football Chelsea fans used to be a right bunch of hostile, horrible gets, it’s nice to see they have at least suppressed their hostility. It is obvious though that a team so heavily reliant on young players will be relatively inconsistent. We have seen it ourselves with Sean Longstaff, for every time he megs Kevin De Bruyne there is a return chasing of equal measure by someone far less talented.

Not that they were particularly helped by the more experienced men behind them. Roman Abramovich may have put £247m of his own money into Chelsea last season but if he gets Kepa Arrizabalaga for his money then he is going to be wasting his money for the rest of his life. It’s always amusing to know that one team can spend £75million on a goalkepa who is krepa, nowhere near as good as one NUFC spent £4million on. Dubravka was again superb against Chelsea, it is always the case that when Dubravka is playing well he spreads confidence throughout the team.

‘Dodgy Kepa’

For United, with Dubravka and Lascelles magnificent it was no surprise that Clark and Fernandez responded likewise. The others worked tirelessly, with Ritchie slipping back in seamlessly, Almiron his usual hard-working self and Hayden, Kraft, ASM and Shelvey contributing in ground covered, if not with not the ball. People afterwards told me Shelvey didn’t look fit…but when does he ever? In his defence there are games which suit some players and games which suit others. With limited possession and out-balls while facing fast and inventive opposition, that is not the game for Shelvey to inspire. He looks too slow in games like this one. Not all games are like this one, just the home games.

Up front, Joelinton played better. It looks like someone has taught him how to jump and at least he battled with some appetite. With another referee on another day he would have been granted more protection and been in the game more. He needs to start scoring goals though and he missed two great chances on Saturday.

That didn’t matter this time around, the game was dreadful but football at SJP is all about moments like the 93rd. An absolutely great way to win a match.

Both managers saw positives at the end, Frank Lampard confusingly claiming that Chelsea were in “total control” of a game that they lost. I can’t see any sense in that, like saying you were in total control of a car until it crashed. In the summer, Lampard’s unveiling was held up by technical problems with Chelsea wanting to announce their new manager via the temporarily unavailable Facebook and Instagram.

It was a similar story with Newcastle of course, the announcement of our new manager was held up by technical difficulties too, technically nobody wanted the job. But a bit of credit comes Bruce’s way in that he has had the good sense to see that the players know what they are doing under Rafa’s system and he is rightly sticking to it. He still alludes to something else:

“Yes, we have to take care of the ball better for sure but you can’t fault them to a man with their effort and endeavour.”

I’ll sit through 92 minutes of the other team taking care of the ball every week if they all end like this one.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0 – Saturday 18 January 5.30pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

Hayden 90+4

Possession was Chelsea 70%, Newcastle 30%

Total shots were Chelsea 19, Newcastle 7

Shots on target were Chelsea 4, Newcastle 2

Corners were Chelsea 10, Newcastle 1

Crowd: 52,217 (3,200 Chelsea and 10,000 free NUFC season ticket holders)

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Newcastle team v Chelsea:

Dubravka, Krafth (Sean Longstaff 71), Lascelles, Clark, Fernandez, Willems (Ritchie 12), Hayden, Shelvey (Matty Longstaff 85), Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton

Unused Subs

Darlow, Schar, Lejeune, Atsu

(3 Positives and 3 Negatives from Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0 – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0 : If plan was to bore everybody to death and score in last minute – It worked! – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0 – Watch dramatic Isaac Hayden late winner and official match highlights here – Watch HERE)

(Frank Lampard finds Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0 tough to take “We dominated every aspect of the game…” – Read HERE)

(Must see Alan Shearer celebration when winner goes in at Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0 – Video – Watch HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0 – Match ratings and comments on all NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s victory – Read HERE)

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