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Chelsea 2-2 Newcastle: Stoppage time Steven Taylor header denies Blues as Ancelotti's side misses chance to all but seal second spot
Late header gives the visitors a deserved draw after a scrappy game characterized by four set-piece goals in what could be the Italian manager's last match at Stamford Bridge.
By Joel Lamy
Chelsea missed an opportunity to secure second place in the league with a 2-2 draw against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.
Steven Taylor equalized in injury-time to give the away side a deserved draw in what could turn out to be Carlo Ancelotti’s last game at Stamford Bridge for the hosts.
An early goal by Branislav Ivanovic from a corner had given Chelsea the lead, but it was cancelled out soon after by Jonas Gutierrez, who inadvertently deflected in a Ryan Taylor free-kick.
Alex looked to have won the game after scoring from a Lampard free-kick, until Taylor stepped up to equalize in front of his supporters
Both sides had pushed hard for a victory in the second half, but there were few clear-cut chances created by two teams who had struggled to score goals all season.
After the disappointment of seeing their league trophy go to Manchester United, the Blues knew a victory over an injury-hit Newcastle would secure them second place thanks to their superior goal difference over Arsenal.
Newcastle will be disappointed having matched its opponents all match only to lose to a couple of poorly defended set-piece goals.
Chelsea used the match to try out a few fringe players in preparation for next season.
Fernando Torres was given a start at the head of a completely new front three which included Nicolas Anelka and Yossi Benayoun, who was making his first start for the club.
David Luiz was dropped for his poor performance at Old Trafford last week and replaced by Alex, whilst there were starts for Ramires and Josh McEachran alongside Frank Lampard in midfield.
The visitors made two changes, with top-scorer Kevin Nolan needing surgery on an injured ankle and Cheik Tiote one yellow card away from a three match ban next season. Alan Pardew replaced them with Ryan Taylor and Northern Irishman Shane Ferguson.
Chelsea was the victims of a 36-second goal last week, but it didn’t take them much longer to take the lead in this match.
After two minutes, a Lampard corner from the left was flicked on by Torres for an on-rushing Ivanovic to knee-in from a few yards out.
A first-time pass from Benayoun set Torres on his way, but after cutting in from the left he scuffed his shot miles wide and almost for a throw-in.
It has been a one-sided match so far, but the away squad managed to pull themselves level in fortuitous circumstances.
A misplaced pass by Alex to John Terry was stolen by Peter Lovenkrands, who was brought down by the Chelsea captain just over 25 yards from goal.
The free-kick was taken by Ryan Taylor from just left of center and it deflected off Gutierrez to wrong-foot Petr Cech in goal and find the back of the net.
Cech was fortunate soon after when he spilled a cross under pressure from Shola Ameobi, but his defenders were able to knock the ball out from a corner.
Alex, looking to redeem himself, then volleyed wide from the edge of the Newcastle box after a free-kick wasn’t cleared.
The defender had to make a last ditch sliding tackle to prevent a Ferguson through-ball reaching Lovenkrands, before Danny Simpson shot wide from distance.
McEachran had made a solid start in midfield for the hosts and his pass down the left to Ashley Cole split the Newcastle defence, whose cross was kicked by Jose Enrique against Ryan Taylor, but fortunately for both players the ball went out for a corner.
After a lively half-hour, the half petered out without either side being able to create a clear opening, with the visitors more than holding their own.
Benayoun had a chance to reciprocate Ivanovic’s early strike of the first half, but after drifting in from the left he chipped wide of Tim Krul’s goal.
The home side, as expected, was having more possession, but was creating very little. A Cole header from a tight angle and a long-range Ramires shot were all it was able to muster on a Newcastle defense who were proving resilient.
Gutierrez cut in from the left, but his curled shot was easily held by Cech then Ivanovic was booked for a mis-timed sliding tackle on Ferguson to give Newcastle a free-kick from a similar position to which they scored from. This time, Cech was able to save easily.
With the away side enjoying a good spell and having a number of dangerous free-kicks, Ancelotti brought on Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Michael Essien for Benayoun, McEachran and Ramires in a bold move to try and regain the initiative.
It almost worked, but Drogba wasn’t expecting a pass from Cole who was expected to shoot when in a good position, then Terry headed over an Ivanovic cross under heavy pressure.
Chelsea took the lead from another set-piece with seven minutes to go, as Alex headed home a Frank Lampard free-kick from the right after Krul had misjudged the flight of the ball.
But with just one minute of three stoppage time minutes left, Taylor was left unmarked in the Chelsea box six yards out and scored after substitute Nile Ranger had headed back a Ryan Taylor corner to send their substitutes back home happy.
John Obi Mikel
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