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Match Report: Newcastle 0-3 Chelsea (Newcastle Fan's Perspective)

Monday 5th December 2011
It was a strange occasion at St. James' Park. The planned tribute for a Newcastle legend that sadly passed away almost a week ago was graciously put on hold by the club, at the wishes of Gary Speed's wife. Newcastle fans honoured a former fans favourite in their own way, with chants galore, and scarf-waving in the 11th minute of play. By this point in the game, the crowd had already had plenty to shout about though.

Newcastle's intentions were laid out on the table from the very beginning. Ba to Ben Arfa, who ran immediately at the Chelsea team, flanked by Obertan and Lovenkrands either side. Unfortunately, this was probably the only time in the game we got to see the two wingers move forward in position. And rather typically of Ben Arfa's day, he quickly found himself surrounded in a sea of Blue. One player who didn't struggle going forward was the impressive Lovenkrands, filling in on the left for the suspended Jonas, whose defensive willingness was a great miss against the highly impressive Daniel Sturridge. With only 4 minutes gone, Lovenkrands played a clever through ball behind the Chelsea defence and onto the run of Demba Ba. Through on goal, and just the keeper to beat, the in-form striker was placed with an excellent opportunity to open the scoring when the extremely poor David Luiz dragged him to the ground. As blatant a foul as you will see, and an easy decision, controversy ensued. Mike Dean blew his whistle, pointed for the free kick, and then inexplicably pulled out the yellow card.

Even now I am baffled as to why the referee has decided not to send the curly-haired defender off, as I'm sure many more are. I won't be dwelling on this however, and neither should any of the fans. Last week we had a laugh and a joke as the refereeing blunder at Old Trafford gave us a penalty and a point we probably deserved in the end. This week the shoe was well and truly on the other foot. No doubt in my mind that, had Luiz been given his marching orders so early into the game, Newcastle may well have came away with a point, if not all three. However, 11 vs. 11, Newcastle probably didn't play well enough to earn all 3 points, and in a cruel twist of fate, it was the home side which ended up with 10 men.

Back to the game, and the next big incident came just under 10 minutes later. And in a warning shot to Newcastle, it came through some good work from two of the beacons of light in Chelsea's present and future, Spaniard Juan Manuel Mata and England U21 star Daniel Sturridge. Ivanovic cleared the ball to Mata just inside Chelsea's half, and with Ryan Taylor out of position, the Spaniard utilised the space left available to play a neat ball into the path of the on-running Sturridge. From there, there was no catching him as he burst into the Newcastle box, before halting his run long enough to coax a poor tackle from Cabaye. A definite penalty was given by Mike Dean, from which Frank Lampard stepped up to take. The England international is usually quite solid from 12 yards out, but not today. As he ran up, he had opened his body, giving a clear indication as to where he was going to place it. He then failed to slot the ball right into the corner of the goal, which gave the flying Dutchman Tim Krul an opportunity to, once again, make himself the hero. He duly obliged, pushing the ball onto the post, before celebrating his achievement.

Part of me likes to believe that he read my review of the City game a fortnight ago and wanted to prove this idiot wrong, but I try not to listen to this part of me for fear I'll end up in a padded cell. As for Frank Lampard, looking in from the outside, surely his days playing week in, week out at Chelsea are over, and possibly his days at Chelsea in general are numbered. Admittedly I've never been blown away by him, despite an impressive goals record, but he is looking more and more one-paced in a league that is becoming faster and faster, and bar the penalty miss, he was hardly in the game at all, being outshone by his midfield teammates Romeu and Ramires.

It took a mere 3 minutes for Chelsea's next opportunity at goal. Once again the chance came through the work between Mata and Sturridge, whose shot blasted off the post and away, although Krul looked to have the angles covered well on his near post were it on target. Nevertheless, it was a massive worry to see Sturridge tearing his way through what has been a solid Newcastle defence for so often this season. Things soon went from bad to terrible for Newcastle, as the lynchpin of Newcastle, the glue that holds together an average defence, and the captain, Coloccini, was brought off with a thigh strain. On in his place was a man used as no more than a scapegoat by the fans for everything that goes wrong, James Perch. And I'm going to take this opportunity to say that I felt he didn't put a foot wrong last week when he came on, and he didn't this week either, so those fans that moan about him should give the lad a break, as he is going to be vital for us up until January at least now.

Chelsea's goal eventually came about in the 38th minute, and it ended up coming through Drogba, retaining his place in the side ahead of £50mil man Fernando Torres. Obviously, there was a hint of controversy about it as well, with Dean claiming a touch of Ryan Taylor had took it out for a throw, though it was difficult to tell from TV replays whether the decision was correct or not. The home fans certainly disagreed, and it was writing on the wall that they would be given reason to feel further aggrieved by the decision. It was a typical Drogba goal, who ran across the defence to power a header in at the front post, and was predictably set up by Mata, who only failed to make one pass in the entire game. In comparison, Newcastle's playmaker, Hatem Ben Arfa, struggled to find the time or space to open up the Chelsea defence, with particular credit going to Romeu, who sat very deep in front of the centre backs in a position similar to what Tiote would usually utilise for Newcastle.

It was probably this inability to play the ball that led Pardew to make a half time change, with Shola Ameobi chosen ahead of younger brother Sammy or the returning Leon Best to join Ba in attack. Given that Shola's last appearance for Newcastle came in similar circumstances, with Newcastle trailing to Spurs at home only for the introduction of Shola to produce Newcastle with an equaliser that day. Shola's physical presence allowed Newcastle to play a more direct style, with the two big men up front now providing excellent targets. However, they were starved of quality service in the box, with Lovenkrands failing to stay out wide for large parts of the game, and Obertan practically sat in the stands for the entire match. Particularly infuriating was the Frenchman's inability to get the ball in the box, with only one cross made into the box, and a poor one at that.

This inability meant most of Newcastle's chances came from long range shots and corners. This isn't to say that Newcastle didn't have chances, though, as they managed to hit the woodwork on three separate occasions, two coming in the 2nd half, through the front pairing of Shola and Ba, as well as having a chance for Sammy Ameobi cleared off the line by John Terry. Petr Cech was also called into action to save chances for Ba either side of half time, while a comical piece of defending from Terry and Luiz almost resulted in one of the most humorous own goals in Premier League history.

While a lot of the plaudits recently have been going the way of Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal, and rightfully so, a Sunderland fan claimed to me that this only shows that Newcastle aren't playing as well as people claim. So I've decided to highlight the work of an outfield player, who for the past 3 or 4 weeks has been an impressive figure in the Newcastle midfield. In through injury, yesterday was a prime example as to why Danny Guthrie warrants a new contract at Newcastle, with his current deal running out at the end of the season. The former Liverpool lad has spent the majority of his time at Newcastle behind bigger names like Barton, Nolan, Tiote and Cabaye, but has really stepped up this season, playing in a way not to dissimilar to that of Joey Barton. His range of passes, mixed with a willingness to come deep and collect the ball from his defenders, is a great benefit to the side, opening up opportunities for both wingers and full backs to get behind the opposition defence and hit balls into the box.

The big difference in the end came with the injury to Steven Taylor, who had stepped up to fill the void left by Coloccini not only taking the captain's armband, but controlling his defence competently too. The big Geordie tried to run off the injury, but was ultimately unable to, and the later news that he may be out for the season only highlights further the commitment and effort which embodies the team's ethos. In the end, this was one mountain too big for Newcastle climb, and with the team pushing in search of an equaliser, it seemed their chance had been and gone when Torres, on for Drogba, was through one on one with Krul. However the out of sorts Spaniard seemed hesitant, allowing Perch the chance to get back. Eventually the ball fell to another Chelsea sub, Kalou, who hit the ball beyond Tim Krul and into the net with only a minute left to play. The scoring wasn't over yet, however, and it was of course that man, Daniel Sturridge, who rounded things off as he slotted home Chelsea's third in injury time.

As it was the 3-0 scoreline certainly flattered Chelsea, and though on another day, Newcastle might well have got something from the game, Chelsea were well worth the win, attacking fluently and rapidly through a Newcastle defence which once again adopted a high line. It was an open and entertaining match, and a great advertisement for the quality of the Premier League, but maybe not for the quality of its officiating. And now Mr. Pardew is left with some decisions to make for the trip to Norwich next Saturday.

If you wish to ask any questions or abuse the writer in any way, please feel free to tweet @greglarmouth
Greg Larmouth

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