A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s home Premier League match against Newcastle United.
Chelsea returned to Premier League action on Saturday following the international break with a home tie against Newcastle United.
Excitement levels had continued to increase ahead of the match thanks to a combination of The Blues’s upward progression during the early part of the season, the way Frank Lampard has his team playing and a run of 4 consecutive victories in their last 4 matches.
And traditionally The Magpies have struggled on their visits to Stamford Bridge. Not only have they lost on a regular basis, but the margin of their losses at times has been embarrassing.
Frank made just a single change to his last starting XI from 2 weeks ago away at Southampton. Ross Barkley, fresh from his brace while shining for England, replaced the injured N’Golo Kante.
This meant another match together for the fledgling centre back partnership of Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma. However, while both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are still sidelined during to injuries, there was a place on the bench for 19 year old Marc Guehi.
Despite only recently returning from a long term injury and impressing for the England U21s, Callum Hudson-Odoi once again started, allowing Mason Mount a more free, central role in what was a fairly attack minded line up.
Steve Bruce went for a very solid looking 5-4-1 formation and with the pace of Allan Saint-Maximin, the guild of Almirón and the size and strength of Joelinton as a target man, the visitors arrived with the hope of nicking a goal or 2.
Even though Newcastle are already flirting with the relegation zone, Bruce’s side were buoyed thanks to their fully committed victory over Manchester United in their last match.
In the early stages, the visitors were proving that they could be a threat going forward themselves. They clearly believed the best form of defence was to attack and they utilised Joelinton’s power and the pace of Almirón and especially Saint-Maximin.
However the latter was very well marshalled but Cesar Azpilicueta, while Joelinton was given minimal chances at goal thanks to the growing partnership between Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori. The end result was that The Magpies failed to register a single attempt on target.
Meanwhile at the other end, the Newcastle defenders in full defiance mode. Dubravka was very commanding in goal and Chelsea had to remain patient as they try to break the deadlock.
The first half saw a number of missed placed passes and plenty of attacking movements not quite clicking for Frank’s team. After the break there appeared to be more purpose in their play. Mateo Kovacic had replaced the injured Ross Barkley soon before half time. The Croatian midfielder and both full backs pressed on further as the match continued, and it only seemed like when , and not if, Chelsea would finally open the scoring.
Tammy Abraham was unfortunate to see his header bounce back off the crossbar, but a flowing move finally resulted in Marcos Alonso rifling his shot, much to the amusement and relief of the expectant home crowd.
Steve Bruce introduced forwards Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle, both of whom can be a thorn in the side, but it made little effect. Chelsea were heading for a narrow but richly deserved victory.
The patience shown and the control of steadily building up the pressure on such a resilient defence showed both maturity and elements of how Frank played the match himself.
This may have been the smallest of victory margins over a side who will be spending most of the season fighting against relegation, but it was vastly significant on the footballing revolution that Frank Lampard is installing at the club.
The togetherness of a team mixed with so much youth and established players is a joy to behold. They are proving capable of defeating varied opponents and can now look forward to pitting their wits against one of Europe’s finest footballing teams in midweek.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue