Monday, February 21, 2005

Winter wonderland

The snow fell on St James's yesterday as Mourinho's boys rolled in to town, but the sun was definitely shining down on Newcastle as Chelski limped home to concentrate on their Premiership, League Cup and Champions' League campaigns.

A brilliant fourth minute header from Patrick Kluivert (the product of a perfect Laurent Robert cross) proved to be the difference between the two sides, and booked us a place in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup.

However, it could have been very different but for the boldness of the Chelsea coach. Having seen his side concede an early goal, and still be trailing at the break (despite Kezman's best effort coming back off the underside of the bar) he made a triple substitution and brought on Duff, Lampard and Gudjohnsson.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Wayne Bridge then suffered a bad injury that saw him stretchered from the pitch and leave his teammates a man short, and Duff was later left a virtual spectator following a clash with his own keeper.

This was just the piece of luck we needed (although I hope Bridge enjoys a speedy recovery) and allowed us to nullify the increased threat that Chelsea posed in the second half. With Souness having reverted to a 4-4-2, we were able to stretch the visitors' remodelled three man defence, and Robert in particular gave Glen Johnson a pretty torrid time.

Souness brought off Shearer to a chorus of boos midway through the second half, although it was subsequently revealed that he had undergone a late fitness test - and with Heerenveen in Toon on Thursday, it made sense to withdraw him from the fray. Dyer then followed his captain off the pitch shortly afterwards, as Souness tried to stretch Chelsea further with Milner introduced down the right.

Neither substitute had a great game though. Ameobi had one of those games where the ball seemed to keep bouncing off him and Milner drifted infield, much to the annoyance of his manager. Our other problem seemed to be an inability to retain possession - with passes repeatedly going astray.

However, in the last minute Shola was played in behind the Chelsea defence, and was cleaned out by Carlo Cudicini. Mark Halsey was left with no choice but to show the red card, and for Cudicini his early bath will rule him out of next week's League Cup Final. For us, it was a chance to test replacement keeper Glen Johnson from a free kick just outside the D, which Robert duly smashed past the wall, only to see it cannon back off the new keeper's legs.

At that stage, Mourinho appeared ready to concede defeat even before the final whistle. Souness though has seen enough of our defence to know that it's never over until the end, and looked decidedly reluctant to take Jose's hand. Fortunately, there was to be no last gasp goal for the opposition, and we made it in to the hat for today's draw.

Overall, a solid display from the lads, with Titus enjoying an excellent game (fortunately he was never afforded the time to dither on the ball) and Boumsong making a welcome return from injury. With Butt and JJ always competitive in the middle of the park, and a goal for our erratic Dutchman it was a good day all round. Quite how well we would have fared against a full strength Chelsea is a moot point: we beat the team in front of us, and it's our name in the hat.

Other reports: Talk Of The Tyne, BBC, Guardian

A Chelsea perspective: Chelsea Blog (The consensus seems to have been that Chelsea were unlucky with injuries but that they need to move on to Barcelona rather than dwelling on yesterday's result. Most are gracious in defeat - that is, apart from some illiterate called Rico, who had this to say: "newcastle didnt do anything i thought considering the circumstances we were still a better team, even with 7 fit players.newcastle were rubbish and the fans at the end acted like the won the lottery, i mean they really think they are goin to beat man u or arsenal". Did you see the game, my friend?)


Post a Comment

<< Home