Premier League: Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle: Willian sends Blues six points clear in fourth

Premier League: Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle: Willian sends Blues six points clear in fourth

There has been a growing feeling among those who follow Chelsea that selling Willian to Barcelona would be no bad thing. Perhaps they will rethink.

Not so much on the grounds of his wider performance – there wasn’t much in it, really. Except, that is, for one moment of such wonderful quality that it won a game that was fast turning into an embarrassment for Chelsea.

It came around 57 minutes in at 1-1. Chelsea were flopping about the place, not just struggling with their finishes, which has been a theme of late, but not creating much, either. And then the ball reached Willian out on the left without much on. A blink later and it had been lashed across goal and inside the far post. 

Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka was beaten all ends up by Willian as Chelsea regained the lead in the second-half

Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka was beaten all ends up by Willian as Chelsea regained the lead in the second-half

Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka was beaten all ends up by Willian as Chelsea regained the lead in the second-half

Willian takes the acclaim of the Stamford Bridge crowd after finding the back of the net just before the hour mark

Willian takes the acclaim of the Stamford Bridge crowd after finding the back of the net just before the hour mark

Willian takes the acclaim of the Stamford Bridge crowd after finding the back of the net just before the hour mark

Ciaran Clark powers a header into the bottom corner from Matt Ritchie's corner to level for Newcastle before half-time

Ciaran Clark powers a header into the bottom corner from Matt Ritchie's corner to level for Newcastle before half-time

Ciaran Clark powers a header into the bottom corner from Matt Ritchie’s corner to level for Newcastle before half-time

The Newcastle defender and his team-mates race over to the away supporters after equalising at Stamford Bridge

The Newcastle defender and his team-mates race over to the away supporters after equalising at Stamford Bridge

The Newcastle defender and his team-mates race over to the away supporters after equalising at Stamford Bridge

Pedro got Chelsea off to the perfect start when he chipped the ball over the onrushing Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka

Pedro got Chelsea off to the perfect start when he chipped the ball over the onrushing Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka

Pedro got Chelsea off to the perfect start when he chipped the ball over the onrushing Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka

Pedro signals to his team-mate David Luiz after his long ball picked out the Spaniard in space and through on goal

Pedro signals to his team-mate David Luiz after his long ball picked out the Spaniard in space and through on goal

Pedro signals to his team-mate David Luiz after his long ball picked out the Spaniard in space and through on goal

David Luiz lets out a roar as he celebrates the opening goal in front of the home fans in the evening game on Saturday

David Luiz lets out a roar as he celebrates the opening goal in front of the home fans in the evening game on Saturday

David Luiz lets out a roar as he celebrates the opening goal in front of the home fans in the evening game on Saturday

MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE 

Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa 6; Azpilicueta 6.5, Rudiger 6, Luiz 6, Alonso 6; Kante 6.5, Jorginho 6.5, Kovacic 6 (Barkley 63, 6.5); Pedro 7 (Hudson-Odoi 81), Hazard 6.5 (Giroud 87), Willian 7.5

Subs not used: Caballero, Christensen, Emerson Palmieri, Ampadu

Goalscorers: Pedro 9, Willian 57

Booked: Jorginho

Manager: Maurizio Sarri 6.5

Newcastle (5-4-1): Dubravka 7; Yedlin 6 (Manquillo 82), Lejeune 6, Lascelles 7, Clark 6, Ritchie 6.5; Perez 6 (Murphy 82), Longstaff 6, Hayden 6, Atsu 6.5; Rondon 6

Subs not used: Schar, Murphy, Fernandez, Manquillo, Joselu, Sterry, Woodman

Goalscorers: Clark 40

Booked: Ritchie 

Manager: Rafa Benitez 6.5 

Referee: Chris Kavanagh 6.5

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Chelsea regain the lead through Willian's spectacular curling strike. CLICK HERE for more from MATCH ZONE

Chelsea regain the lead through Willian's spectacular curling strike. CLICK HERE for more from MATCH ZONE

Chelsea regain the lead through Willian’s spectacular curling strike. CLICK HERE for more from MATCH ZONE

Quite something, that, and worth watching if it flashes up. Worth fighting for, too, if you look at the bigger picture with this player. Granted, he has not quite sustained his best this campaign and £50m is an awful lot for a 30-year-old with only 18 months to run on his contract. 

Cashing in might well be the best bet. But not many players can do what Willian is able to do with relative ease when the mood takes him and that, really, is why Maurizio Sarri’s side won this match.

For a while that didn’t look likely, such was their performance after taking an early lead through Pedro. That should have been enough, given how poor Newcastle have been this season, but it is hard to take much for granted with Chelsea at the moment, because with 11 goals in their previous 10 games, they have been limping a little. Results have been trickling in, but a struggle nonetheless.

And so it played out in this game. They were strangely flat, indecisive, unable to accelerate past a jog, and so a Newcastle fan base that started the game with the usual insults at Mike Ashley – who was present – started to believe. 

With that, the side grew and got themselves level through Ciaran Clark. For a brief moment it seemed they might even go ahead, but that would be pushing it. Their season has been wretched, after all, and again this match turned against them, with Willian’s brilliance. 

Stamford Bridge was treated to a spectacular fireworks show ahead of kick-off in the Premier League clash on Saturday

Stamford Bridge was treated to a spectacular fireworks show ahead of kick-off in the Premier League clash on Saturday

Stamford Bridge was treated to a spectacular fireworks show ahead of kick-off in the Premier League clash on Saturday

A cheerful Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez embraces his opposite number Maurizio Sarri before the start of proceedings

A cheerful Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez embraces his opposite number Maurizio Sarri before the start of proceedings

A cheerful Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez embraces his opposite number Maurizio Sarri before the start of proceedings

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was in attendance to watch his side take on Chelsea in West London on Saturday evening

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was in attendance to watch his side take on Chelsea in West London on Saturday evening

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was in attendance to watch his side take on Chelsea in West London on Saturday evening

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic appears to go towards ground as he tries to streak past his Newcastle opponents

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic appears to go towards ground as he tries to streak past his Newcastle opponents

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic appears to go towards ground as he tries to streak past his Newcastle opponents

Chelsea winger Willian looks to get the ball under control as Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden sticks a foot in

Chelsea winger Willian looks to get the ball under control as Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden sticks a foot in

Chelsea winger Willian looks to get the ball under control as Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden sticks a foot in

Newcastle defender Florian Lejeune attempts to get a toe on the ball as Mateo Kovacic tries to keep hold of possession

Newcastle defender Florian Lejeune attempts to get a toe on the ball as Mateo Kovacic tries to keep hold of possession

Newcastle defender Florian Lejeune attempts to get a toe on the ball as Mateo Kovacic tries to keep hold of possession

Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso is left sprawled on the floor as Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin brings the ball out

Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso is left sprawled on the floor as Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin brings the ball out

Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso is left sprawled on the floor as Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin brings the ball out

That sole contribution means five wins in seven for Chelsea and only one win in nine for Newcastle, which would have been the prediction of most at the start of play. Just look at the team sheets, if not the form.

Maurizio Sarri made three changes to the side beaten by Tottenham in the Carabao Cup – David Luiz came in for Christensen at centre-half, Mateo Kovacic went on the left of the midfield three in place of Ross Barkley and Pedro started in attack ahead of Callum Hudson-Odoi. Nice options to have.

Rafa Benitez’s selection hinted at an altogether tougher life. We know about his difficulties, partially because he discusses them so frequently, but also because they are so painfully obvious to the naked eye. 

They reek of neglect and the reminder comes each time Benitez files his team – this one showed a collective of 11 men that cost around £25m less than Chelsea’s £70m goalkeeper.

The opening goal for Chelsea was delightful, with David Luiz dropping a long ball behind Clark and Pedro controlling with his right and lobbing Martin Dubravka with his left for his seventh goal of the season. Lovely stuff, even if Benitez’s analytics will likely nose on why Pedro was allowed to run untracked between Ritchie and Clark. 

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic can only watch as Newcastle striker Ayoze Perez looks to get the visitors on the front foot

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic can only watch as Newcastle striker Ayoze Perez looks to get the visitors on the front foot

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic can only watch as Newcastle striker Ayoze Perez looks to get the visitors on the front foot

Newcastle striker Salomon Rondon wins the aerial challenge ahead of Chelsea defender David Luiz in the first-half

Newcastle striker Salomon Rondon wins the aerial challenge ahead of Chelsea defender David Luiz in the first-half

Newcastle striker Salomon Rondon wins the aerial challenge ahead of Chelsea defender David Luiz in the first-half

Newacastle defender DeAndre Yedlin hits the deck as Newcastle try to keep Chelsea at bay in Saturday's game

Newacastle defender DeAndre Yedlin hits the deck as Newcastle try to keep Chelsea at bay in Saturday's game

Newacastle defender DeAndre Yedlin hits the deck as Newcastle try to keep Chelsea at bay in Saturday’s game

Martin Dubravka stands up tall and makes himself big to deny Chelsea winger Willian when through one-on-one

Martin Dubravka stands up tall and makes himself big to deny Chelsea winger Willian when through one-on-one

Martin Dubravka stands up tall and makes himself big to deny Chelsea winger Willian when through one-on-one

Newcastle defender Florian Lejeune slides in to win the ball ahead of Chelsea winger Eden Hazard in the second-half

Newcastle defender Florian Lejeune slides in to win the ball ahead of Chelsea winger Eden Hazard in the second-half

Newcastle defender Florian Lejeune slides in to win the ball ahead of Chelsea winger Eden Hazard in the second-half

Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles receives treatment after colliding with the advertising hoarding as he made a clearance

Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles receives treatment after colliding with the advertising hoarding as he made a clearance

Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles receives treatment after colliding with the advertising hoarding as he made a clearance

At that stage, all was rosy for Chelsea, a goal to the good against limited opposition. But the mediocrity that followed was alarming. Other than a header sent over the bar by Luiz, they offered almost nothing of note.

That allowed Newcastle some confidence and having taken the sting out of the game, they gradually started to threaten. It started with a few forward forays, continued with a near miss from Ayoze Perez and culminated with the equaliser, scored by Clark with a fine header from Ritchie’s corner.

By the close of the half, Newcastle were the more likely to score. How’s that for a tale in defied expectations?

Chelsea started the second with a little more verve but showed nothing even approaching the quality Willian delivered with his goal. Hazard was at its root in so much as he sucked in three men to block his path to the Newcastle area, and that allowed space to Willian on his left. 

With a touch he got a slither of space next to DeAndre Yedlin and his finish – a curler across goal and inside the far post – was marvellous.

And reason enough to block any advances.

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante looks to clear the ball upfield as Newcastle winger Christian Atsu applies some pressure

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante looks to clear the ball upfield as Newcastle winger Christian Atsu applies some pressure

Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante looks to clear the ball upfield as Newcastle winger Christian Atsu applies some pressure

Chelsea defender David Luiz clutches his knee after a collision with Newcastle forward Ayoze Perez in the second period

Chelsea defender David Luiz clutches his knee after a collision with Newcastle forward Ayoze Perez in the second period

Chelsea defender David Luiz clutches his knee after a collision with Newcastle forward Ayoze Perez in the second period



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