Newcastle 0-3 Chelsea: Daniel Sturridge shines in thrilling encounter to give Andre Villas-Boas a vital victory
A superb display from young England forward guided the Blues to three points on Tyneside, despite a controversial David Luiz decision and Frank Lampard's missed penalty
By Oliver Platt
Both sides had chances but Andre Villas-Boas will feel his team deserved the three points, with Frank Lampard missing a first-half penalty and Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul repeatedly denying Sturridge.
Villas-Boas' counterpart, Alan Pardew, will be wondering what might have been, though, with David Luiz extremely lucky only to receive a yellow card for a foul on Demba Ba in the opening minutes, with the Senegalese forward seemingly through on goal.
Didier Drogba's first-half header opened the scoring for the visitors, with Salomon Kalou scoring late on before Sturridge compounded the hosts' misery in stoppage-time with a well-deserved goal.
The result sees Chelsea jump into third place at least temporarily, with Tottenham Hotspur due to play Bolton on Saturday, whilst Newcastle drop down to fifth in the table.
Newcastle made just one change to the side that drew with Manchester United, with Jonas Gutierrez suspended, Peter Lovenkrands stepped in on the left flank.
Fernando Torres had to settle for a place on the bench once again as Drogba started for Chelsea in attack, whilst Lampard was restored to the midfield in place of Raul Meireles.
The atmosphere within the now Sports Direct Arena was ignited before four minutes of play had passed, when referee Mike Dean produced only a yellow card for Luiz after he hauled down Ba.
The former West Ham striker appeared to be through on goal as he raced on to Lovenkrands’ pass, with Pardew furious at the decision not to give the Brazilian his marching orders, and Ryan Taylor could only put the resulting free-kick into the wall.
Dean will not have improved the home manager’s mood when, minutes later, he awarded Chelsea a penalty-kick as Yohan Cabaye tripped Daniel Sturridge in the box.
The Magpies might have felt that some semblance of justice was done when Lampard’s penalty was superbly turned away by the Dutchman Krul between the posts.
Sturridge nearly corrected that miss shortly afterwards, again finding space in the penalty area before shooting powerfully against the post.
Newcastle had looked comfortable in possession, with Lovenkrands particularly influential and Danny Guthrie impressive alongside Cabaye in midfield. But the visitors found plenty of space on the counter-attack, particularly through Sturridge, who went close again on the 20 minute mark as he curled a shot from distance just wide.
Lampard saved | Tim Krul saves Frank Lampard's early penalty
It was easy to predict that it would not be his last chance as Ryan Taylor continued to struggle. The former Manchester City man forced a good save from Krul after breaking into the box before hitting the side netting from a slightly tighter angle almost immediately afterwards.
Chelsea were nearly punished for their early profligacy when more good work from Lovenkrands saw the Danish winger cross for Ba, who’s flicked effort forced an excellent save from Petr Cech.
The early sting had been taken out of the game somewhat but chances continued to flow, but Newcastle suffered a severe blow when Fabricio Coloccini was forced off due to a thigh injury to be replaced by James Perch shortly before the 30 minute mark.
Drogba was adequately put off by Steven Taylor after an excellent cross from deep by Juan Mata before Guthrie’s outstanding ball from the right evaded Luiz but not Ba, whose header rebounded back off of the post.
Unfortunately for Pardew’s side, Ba’s opposite number was to go one better. A quickly taken throw-in deep into Newcastle territory found Mata who clipped a cross to the edge of the six-yard box, and Drogba stole a yard on Perch as he powered a header into the roof of the net beyond Krul.
It could have been worse if not for the excellent young keeper, who got down quickly to deny Sturridge after the young forward had raced on to Lampard’s defence-splitting pass.
Shola Ameobi was introduced in place of Hatem Ben Arfa, who had been closely watched by Oriol Romeu, after the interval, in a move that suggested the home side might lengthen their passing in order to exploit Luiz, who had struggled with Ba’s physicality.
Newcastle made a positive start to the half but it was their opponents who carved out the first real chance of the second 45. Branislav Ivanovic’s cross from the right found its way to Drogba at the back post, but after controlling the ball well, the Ivory Coast striker could only volley into the side netting from close range.
Drogba went closer shortly after – albeit at the wrong end of the pitch. Defending a corner, the 33-year-old nearly headed Cabaye’s ball into the danger area past his own goalkeeper but was saved by the crossbar.
Luckily for the Ivorian the rebound sprung a Chelsea counter-attack, with Sturridge released down the right he slipped a ball through to the on-rushing Ramires, but Krul once again did just enough to make the save.
Pardew’s half-time switch seemed to be working, as Newcastle looked to have more of a grip on the game, but they struggled to make their possession count and create the chances that might lead to an equaliser. John Terry, in particular, was colossal at the heart of the Chelsea defence and the Blues started to look more and more comfortable as the half wore on.
After Mata had wasted a chance at the other end, Terry came to the Blues’ rescue once more when Cech unsuccessfully came to retrieve a cross. The ball dropped for substitute Sammy Ameobi, but his volley was blocked on the line by the Chelsea skipper.
His older brother came even closer to finding the leveller, as Shola did superbly well to make something of Danny Simpson’s ball, before turning and firing a thunderbolt that beat Cech but hit the woodwork.
It was not to be the Magpies' day however, as Torres, introduced late from the bench, saw his shot blocked after breaking clear of the visitors' backline, but the Spaniard was able to cut the ball back to fellow sub Kalou who sealed the three points.
The Blues deserved the victory but the scoreline was undoubtedly harsh on Pardew's team, with Sturridge adding a third in injury time to rub salt in the Magpies' wounds but cap an excellent display from the England international who continues to shine.
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