Monday, February 10, 2014

Eden ensures Stamford Bridge is no paradise

Chelsea 3 - 0 Newcastle Utd

Facing Chelsea immediately after their win at the Etihad and our demoralising thumping by the Mackems was never likely to end well - and so it proved. Jose Mourinho was rightly lauded for his tactical nous in engineering the victory over Man City, but it doesn't take a genius to select Eden Hazard, "the best young player in the world" (according to his manager) in exhilarating form proving too good for our patched-up side.

The Silver Fox opted to hand Luuk de Jong his full debut, dropping Big Lad to the bench. Meanwhile, Mr T's absence through injury saw Davide Santon somewhat surprisingly moved into central midfield (Dan Gosling and Sylvain Marveaux left to kick their heels on the sidelines), with Paul Dummett equally surprisingly preferred to Massadio Haidara at left-back.

Our hosts weren't without their own injury problems, the loss of John Terry lending encouragement to our forwards, and we started on the front foot. On two occasions our own answer to the dazzling Belgian, HBA, tried his luck, but the dribbling efforts were of no concern to a 'keeper of Petr Cech's quality.

Chelsea gradually upped their game, Oscar skimming a shot just wide of Tim Krul's right-hand post, before Hazard took charge. After a neat spin and pass out wide, he swept the return ball emphatically into the far corner.

Moussa Sissoko has a useful habit of raising his game against the Blues, having been instrumental in the two home victories since his arrival from France, and sure enough he was once again at the heart of the action shortly afterwards. Sadly, a poor first touch from Santon's clever through-ball gave Cech the chance to block with relative ease.

A few minutes later and we were rueing the miss even more. Hazard once again profited from an incisive one-two, darting onto Samuel Eto'o's back-heel as Dummett floundered and finishing clinically. De Jong's tame downward header meant we went in two goals down.

The deficit could have increased further after the break when David Luiz hoofed clear and Krul slipped on the edge of his area, Oscar not quite able to touch it into the empty net before it ran behind, but it wasn't long before we gifted Chelsea their third. MYM, on for the injured Mathieu Debuchy in the first half, had already picked up a booking for a clumsy foul when he took it upon himself to wrestle Eto'o to the ground from a corner. The pundits purred about the spot-kick with which Hazard completed his hat-trick, but it was cocky and Krul could have made him look very silly - as it was, though, the Dutchman was the one with an embarrassed look on his face.

HBA had been ineffectual, but in replacing him with Gosling the Silver Fox made us more defensive, as though we were attempting to shut the stable door with Mourinho's "little horse" already several furlongs away. The fact that a player just back from an unspectacular stint at Championship strugglers Blackpool could find himself back in the first-team frame so soon speaks volumes about the paucity of options available.

Chelsea, meanwhile, rubbed salt into the wound by bringing on both Mohamed Salah, fellow big-money transfer window acquisition Nemanja Matic having started the game in midfield, and our old boy Demba Ba, the subject of unjustified abuse from the away end.

Salah fluffed a good opportunity to make the scoreline even more emphatic, while Marveaux, on for Mini V, fired harmlessly into the side-netting when he really should have shot across Cech's goal.

The final whistle brought an end to our four-game winning sequence in the capital, though we can take some consolation from having acquitted ourselves reasonably well away to a side that edged to the top of the league, thanks to Arsenal's mauling at Anfield and the failure of Man City's potent front line to find a way past Norwich's stubborn defence. While drawing yet another blank is of concern, we were up against the best back four in the division.

Now we need to put this fixture behind us and refocus for the visit of Spurs on Wednesday. Not that getting a result then will be an easy task - we've lost four in a row at home in all competitions, and our visitors have already recorded eight league wins on the road this season. Factor in the fact that Debuchy has been added to an already lengthy injury list and our prospects don't look too rosy.

There was at least some small consolation from the Stadium of Shite, where Wes Brown was sent off for the third time this season in the third minute and Hull - with Steve Harper between the sticks and nominal Geordie and sacked Mackem boss Ol' Cauliflower Face in the dugout - went on to win 2-0. Even still, though, it was laced with chagrin that they chose to return to their usual calamitous ways only after beating us so comfortably.

Chelsea fans' perspectives: Chelsea FC Blog, We Ain't Got No History

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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