Chelsea have to settle for a point and second place after dominating game
Chelsea's title ambitions took another dent on Sunday afternoon after Carlo Ancelotti's men could only muster a draw against Newcastle United, leaving them trailing league-leaders Manchester United by two points.
Newcastle were without numerous influential first team players with Joey Barton, Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson all suspended, whilst club captain Kevin Nolan was ruled out with an ankle injury. However, this didn’t seem to be too much of a disruption for the Magpies as they started brightly.
In just the second minute Danny Guthrie swung in a free kick which Steven Taylor got his head to and although Petr Cech saved well, the ball dropped to Ameobi but he could only direct his volley into the side netting.
Newcastle’s early pressure soon paid off but their goal came more as a result of poor defending by Chelsea than good football by the home side.
Wayne Routledge over-hit a through-ball for Andy Carroll, which seemingly left a straight-forward clearance for Chelsea defender Alex. However, a communication breakdown between the Brazilian and Petr Cech saw Alex knock the ball past his goalkeeper for Carroll to slot into an open goal and put the home side one-nil up.
Chelsea's frustration showed as the first yellow card of the match was shown as early as the 21 minute for a cynical trip by Ramires on Jonas Gutierrez.The away side's first chance came from a header by Alex as he looked to make up for his early blunder. His effort had Krul beaten, but Jose Enrique was on the post to make a clearance.
Chelsea were taking a hold of the game by this stage and enjoying the lion’s share of possession. However, despite winning a succession of corners, they were lacking a cutting-edge as Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka failed to link-up effectively.
Routledge was looking dangerous on the right flank for Newcastle as the home side attacked largely on the counter, and his cross after 30 minutes had to be scrambled away by the Chelsea defence.
There was controversy on 37 minutes as an Anelka through-ball saw the chasing Drogba go down after a coming-together with Cheik Tiote. The referee was unmoved though and television replays showed that there was very little contact between the two, with the Chelsea striker throwing himself to the floor as he looked for a free kick and a possible red card for Tiote.
Ameobi nearly doubled Newcastle's lead as Carroll won a header from a deep free-kick and the ball bounced in the box, but Cech just beat the Newcastle captain to it.
Chelsea had a strong shout for a penalty as half time approached with Ashley Cole bursting into the box from the left and going down under a challenge from Tiote. Andre Marriner didn't give the spot-kick despite though replays showed there was some degree of contact. Cole seemed to take revenge in the next minute as he appeared to leave the boot in on Tiote after an aerial challenge.
Chelsea’s pressure finally paid off a minute before the interval as a lovely move started by Jon Obi Mikel ended in a goal. The Nigerian played in Malouda who layed it off for Salomon Kalou who excellently took the ball in his stride with a clever flick, skipped away from Sol Campbell and got his shot away. The ball deflected slightly off Danny Simpson but there was enough power on Kalou's strike to beat Krul and make it 1-1 just before the referee signalled for half time.
The second half started in fairly cagey fashion and it was not until the 56 minute that the first attempt on goal came. Drogba showed his quality for the first time as he took the ball down on his chest on the edge of the box and struck a left foot volley that was well stopped by Krul.
The game seemed to open up as Gutierrez and Routledge impressed on the Newcastle flanks. The latter crossed well for Carroll who won his header but was penalised for a push on the defender.
Newcastle came very close to going ahead for the second time as Cech produced a poor punch from a left-sided cross. The ball fell to Routledge who hit a fierce volley past the Czech keeper, but Cole made an excellent goal line clearance.
The game became an end-to-end affair as Drogba again had a volleyed effort well saved by Krul as the ball bobbled in the penalty box.
With twenty minutes to go a Drogba cross struck Enrique on the arm in the penalty area, but the defender was so close to the Ivorian that a penalty was rightly declined. From the resulting corner Ivanovic rose well to win a header but could only direct it straight at Krul, who saved comfortably.
With 77 minutes on the clock, Drogba had a goal disallowed for handball. The frontman again volleyed on the spin with his back to goal, but was correctly adjudged to have controlled the ball with his arm before hammering it home.
The first substitution was made on 78 minutes as Newcastle's stand-in captain Shola Ameobi was replaced by 19-year-old Nile Ranger.
The substitution was followed by the best chance Chelsea had to win the game, as the ball somehow escaped Krul and two Newcastle defenders as it bounced through the box. This left Salomon Kalou with an open goal but he somehow managed to put his shot wide.
Chelsea boss Ancelotti looked for the win as he took Mikel off for forward Daniel Sturridge with ten minutes remaining, but Newcastle did well to stifle the away side's attacks.
Chelsea huffed and puffed looking for a winner right to the end of the match but couldn’t break Newcastle down as the game ended 1-1, and the champions poor recent run of results continued.