Chelsea Defeat Newcastle on Benitez Return

by - December 04, 2017

Saturday’s Premier League lunchtime kick off witnessed the return to Stamford Bridge of the least popular of all the ex Chelsea players/managers.

Although the end result is very pleasing, there is an element of disappointment on how the victory was gained. In the build up to this fixture, the current Newcastle boss claimed to the media that most Chelsea supporters would welcome him on his return after winning The Europa League trophy during his spell in charge of The Blues. What he fails to mention is how he insulted and derided the Chelsea faithful whilst in charge at Liverpool and since then has never offered any remorse or regret for his comments. He probably still believes in what he stated and maybe feels it was part of the “banter” with, at the time, a major rival club. But to not indicate any realisation of his insult has always made the situation far worse.

With this in mind, I’m sure most of the home fans would have expected Antonio Conte or someone within the squad or club to use this ill feeling towards Benitez to have fired the players to start the match extremely lively and to have gone for the proverbial jugular from the opening whistle to prove how we feel about what had been said.

However, the players started in a very lethargic fashion. Maybe it’s the Italian mentality of the Chelsea manager which causes his side to start so many matches in a fairly abject way, but it can cause extra problems that the players should not have to deal with.

Once again, an out of form, struggling to score goals opposition managed to force in the opening goal and only then did the home side have the impetus to look like the pre match favourites they were. Like a steam cruiser, momentum took what seemed like an age to build, but when it arrived there was no stopping it.

At the forefront of this was the immensely talented Eden Hazard. He finished the match with 9 shots, 6 of which were on target and he scored 2 goals. His performance just reiterated how important he is to Conte’s side especially when you compare this match to the Swansea match earlier in the week. Even at 1-0 down there was no concerns as to whether they could turn the score round, whilst against The Swans, Chelsea huffed and puffed their way to a far too narrow 1-0 win.

Alvaro Morata led the line as best he could and kept all 3 Newcastle central defenders busy, but, most importantly, he overpowered his marker with ease for the one and only top quality cross to him which he dispatched with pure class for his goal. It was the sign of a great striker.

That cross was provided by the returning Victor Moses, who was making his first start since going off injured in the defeat away to Crystal Palace on 14 October. He started the match not only looking very rusty physically, but was very lethargic mentally. His assist for Morata’s goal was his only meaningful contribution in the first half but he grew more and more in the match in the second half and finished with nearly heading in a goal for himself and it was his surging run that ended in the penalty award.

In central midfield, N’Golo Kante was his usual masterful self and regularly closed down Newcastle counter attacks whilst winning the ball back with majestic ease, but it was Danny Drinkwater who, like Moses, just kept improving throughout the match. His tireless running meant he was involved with both stopping the opponents from advancing but he also became more of a threat to the Newcastle goal. It was only a last ditch incredible tackle on him that prevented Drinkwater from opening his account with The Blues.

With Azpilicueta, Rudiger and especially Christensen looking strong in defence and Courtois’s shot stopping abilities, there is a very strong spine to the Chelsea squad and at times it really shows. With Conte working with his players on keeping their intensity and concentration high for more of the 90 minutes, Chelsea will be able to mount another challenge to the still runaway leaders. With more “winnable” Premier League matches still on the horizon, we should expect the current run of form to continue for a while yet.

Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue

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