Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blues (and bookies) beaten

Cheslea 3 - 4 Newcastle Utd

A wonderful, thrilling performance at Stamford Bridge last night saw us upset the odds (9-1 apparently) and inflict Chelsea's first defeat of the season, and their first home defeat since last March.

Chris Hughton again used the League Cup as an opportunity to shuffle his pack, with ten changes to the starting line-up against a similarly rotated Chelsea team. However, this was a stronger team than was sent out against Accrington Stanley in the last round, with Sol Campbell making his Newcastle debut and Spidermag and Alan Smith doubtless keen to press their claims for a recall to the first team after dropping to the bench last Saturday.

Unsurprisingly it was the league leaders who started the brighter and who found themselves in front after six minutes when Tim Krul and Campbell collided going for a high ball, which dropped to Alan Smith. Smith's ball to Nile Ranger wasn't great and we lost the ball in a dangerous position, allowing Chelsea's poached starlet Gael Kakuta to find former loanee Patrick van Aanholt, and the Dutch left back slotted the ball past Krul to make it 1-0.

At this point, I thought we could be in for a long night, with Chelsea keeping the ball well and Newcastle struggling to get a foothold in the game. However, that all changed on 29 minutes when Shane Ferguson's run from left back finished with a great cross into the Chelsea box. Peter Lovenkrands just missed the header, but Ranger ghosted away from his marker van Aanholt to volley us level acrobatically.

With confidence now starting to flow, Newcastle began to press and Big Lad was hauled down by his marker Jeffrey Bruma on the edge of the Chelsea box minutes later. Ryan Taylor took control of the free kick, and hammered the ball round the wall and past Ross Turnbull in the Chelsea goal to give us a lead which we held until half-time.

At the break Carlo Ancelotti withdrew Kakuta, who appeared to be suffering the after-effects of an incredibly strong and badly timed tackle by Taylor which had seen the Frenchman catapulted through the air, and brought on Soloman Kalou. Off too went John Terry, to be replaced by Alex.

However, despite the introduction of some fresh legs, it was Newcastle who started the half the brighter and within three minutes we extended our lead when Big Lad latched onto a loose Paulo Ferreira pass before threading his shot round the diving Turnbull and off the inside of the post into the net to extend our lead.

With Chelsea 3-1 down things went from bad to worse for the Blues when first Solomon Kalou and then Yossi Benayoun pulled up lame and had to go off. With two substitutions made at half-time, Ancelotti was only able to replace Kalou and the home team were left trying to close the deficit with only ten men.

Two goals up and with a man advantage, Newcastle should perhaps have closed out the game; however, when van Aanholt skinned Taylor and crossed for Anelka to side-foot home and reduce our lead to one with 20 minutes left, the game still hung in the balance.

Things got worse with four minutes remaining when Alex crumpled in the area despite minimal contact from Cheik Tiote and Phil Dowd awarded a spot-kick, which Anelka converted with a one-pace run-up, tucking the ball just inside the post with Krul rooted to the spot.

However, with six minutes of injury time to play there was still time for one final twist as Big Lad's fine header from a Spidermag corner saw the net bulge at the Shed end to restore our lead and ensure the victory.

Reflecting on a great cup night, it's easy to get carried away with the excitement of it all. However, it's worth remembering that we'd all swap last night's win for victory against Stoke on Sunday. What was heartening to see was the performance of some of the players not currently in the first team, with Big Lad enjoying one of those nights when he's virtually unplayable and Shane Ferguson making some good runs from left back (and suggesting we might have some cover for Jose Enrique). Good too to see Campbell get 90 minutes under his belt and the morale boost that this victory brings should hopefully carry through into our next couple of performances.

A Chelsea fan's perspective: Chelsea Football Club Blog

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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