As the full-time whistle blew at Chelsea, a familiar score could just be glimpsed through the torrential downpour, Chelsea 2, Newcastle United 0. However, this result did not truly reflect the whole match, as Newcastle squandered several second half opportunities in front of the Chelsea goal. Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba contrived to miss chances that they would normally expect convert, whilst the brilliance of Eden Hazard and Juan Mata’s movement gave Chelsea two opportunities which they duly seized upon.

From the outset Newcastle were determined to sit back and absorb Chelsea’s pressure, which is a hazardous game plan at the best of times, never mind during a match when we were missing the presence of our talismanic midfielder, Cheick Tiote. Supposedly Tiote had succumbed to a knee injury, but whether he was merely being kept fresh for a transfer to Arsenal or another top flight team will become clear in the next five days. Conspiracy theories aside, Tiote’s absence gave Vurnon Anita the chance to shine in his first full outing in the Premier League, having shown glimpses of his skill as a late substitute during the Spurs game at St James’ Park. However, in the first half of this match he was unable to shine, giving away a penalty in the first twenty minutes with a rash swipe at Fernando Torres inside the box when Coloccini was ready to clear the danger. Eden Hazard duly stepped up to strike the ball beyond Krul’s grasp. Hazard was a continual menace to Newcastle’s backline, as his continual movement and speed on the ball seemed to hypnotise our players who were reluctant to tackle him for fear of giving away a free-kick and seemed bereft of ideas to combat his link up play with Juan Mata and Fernando Torres. Although, Newcastle may not meet a slicker midfielder in the Premier League, surely his former teammate at Lille, Yohan Cabaye should have had some insight into how to combat his constant forays into the danger zone. Cabaye himself, although slightly more sprightly than last weekend’s opener against Tottenham, still looks like he could benefit with more minutes on the training pitch as his exertions during the Euro’s with France seem to have taken their toll. His crossing ability from corners certainly need to be worked on as two of his attempts failed to clear the first man, which is a heinous offence, especially with Ba and Cisse’s presence in the air. Indeed his replacement in the second half, Ryan Taylor, gave a master class in how to cross the ball, providing two of our most promising positions in front of goal. However, by that stage we were already facing an ominous challenge to restore parity in terms of the score-line.

Late in the first half Torres latched on to a back flick from the mercurial Hazard and let fly from the edge of the box beyond Tim Krul, who was unable to get his hands up in time to prevent Chelsea doubling their advantage. Despite resting nine of our first team players in Athens during our mid-week Europa League play-off, Newcastle players looked lethargic in comparison to the quick feet of Eden Hazard and his companions.

As the players trudged in at half-time, the anticipated rain duly arrived, and when they emerged from the tunnel so did Newcastle’s attacking prowess, as they continually drove at Chelsea’s goal but to no avail. The second half proved to be a reverse of the first half in terms of attempts as it was Chelsea’s turn to sit back as Newcastle tried to carve out an opening in front of goal. Ben Arfa built on his good performance of last week, as he embarked on a series of mazy, marauding runs at the Chelsea defence. However, despite the absence of John Terry, the Chelsea back four of Branislav Ivanovich, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole obstinately refused to concede. Indeed, our best chances were wasted as Ryan Taylor’s sublime crosses were in vain. Taylor’s introduction to proceedings in the 64th minute almost brought immediate dividends as his free-kick into the Chelsea box was met by Cisse, who mis-timed his jump and headed over from close range. Newcastle’s next chance was even more clear- cut as Ba took a fresh air kick at Marveaux’s cross, and then got a second opportunity which he was only able to pass into the grateful arms of Petr Cech who was already on the deck.

Marveaux looked lively, producing some silky touches and wing play which shows promise for future matches. However, even he could not provide the crucial opening that Newcastle’s second half endeavours deserved. As the thunder and lightning began to rain down on Stamford Bridge, the only striker to shine through was Torres whose crucial second goal ended Newcastle’s hopes of redemption following our needless concession of the penalty.

Chelsea chose to shut up shop in the latter stages of the match bringing on Ramires for the busy Juan Mata, and Frank Lampard was a late substitute as they looked to shore up their midfield. Chelsea’s ability to bring on such players from the bench, and the fact that their best defender, John Terry was unavailable, highlights our squad’s lack of depth and shows the gulf of spending power between Chelsea and Newcastle United. Whilst Chelsea have spent over £80 million during this summer’s transfer market, Newcastle have recorded a mere £3million net spend (taking into account the sale of Leon Best for £3million). Such a gap in terms of financial acumen may prove to be a barrier to Newcastle’s ability to continually challenge for a top five finish. Indeed, during the week reports circulated that we had scouted but failed to make a bid for Eden Hazard who was rightly named man of the match today. Although it is debateable whether Chelsea’s new players were brought at inflated prices, from the evidence of their performance on the pitch during this game they have readily adapted to the challenges of the Premier League. Newcastle’s hierarchy must take note, do not make changes to our squad purely for financial gain as it will prove disastrous on the pitch.

Today’s match provided a sobering result, after our opening day victory at home to Spurs, and highlights our need to strengthen not just the depth in our squad, but in particular our defence which looks so vulnerable to pacey attackers. Sandwiched between this match and the visit of Aston Villa to St James’ Park is the return leg of our Europa League match against Atromitos. Improvements need to be made to our play to avoid a Greek tragedy and to return to winning ways in the Premier League.

By Rachel Horne

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