Sunday 28th January, Stamford Bridge – Chelsea were back home in West London for their FA Cup fourth round tie vs Newcastle United.
Chelsea had just managed to scrape past Norwich City on penalties in the previous round, while Newcastle beat Luton Town 3 – 1, Ayose Perez (two goals) and Jonjo Shelvey (one goal) with three first half goals to quickly put the game to bed.
Both teams were coming off recent defeats though – Antonio Conte endured yet another difficult game against Arsenal in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semis midweek.
Newcastle had fallen victim to a Sergio Aguero hat trick at the Etihad, in the previous weekend’s Premier League game. Both Conte and Rafa Benitez would be looking for a positive reaction from their teams today.
Thibaut Courtois (ankle), David Luiz (ankle), Willian (hamstring) and Alvaro Morata (back / compassionate leave) were all unavailable for the home side, but Cesc Fabregas had recovered from his hamstring injury, and was on the bench for this game.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Caballero 8.5, Zappacosta 7, Cahill 7, Christensen 7, Rudiger 7, Alonso 8.5, Kante 7 (Ampadu 6), Drinkwater 6.5, Pedro 8 (Hudson-Odoi 5.5), Hazard 8 (Barkley 5.5), Batshuayi 9
Subs Eduardo, Ampadu, Moses, Fabregas, Barkley, Musonda, Hudson-Odoi
Darlow 6.5, Manquillo 6 (Murphy 5), Clark 6, Lascelles 7, Mbemba 6, Haidara 6, Hayden 6, Shelvey 7.5, Saivet 5.5, Gayle 7 (Joselu 5), Ritchie 6.5
Subs Woodman, Dummett, Yedlin, Murphy, Diame, Atsu, Joselu
Real Strikers Score Goals
Newcastle must have been encouraged by West Bromwich Albion’s heroic 3 – 2 win over Liverpool at Anfield, and they pressed Chelsea relentlessly from the kick-off.
They had the game’s first meaningful chance too. Jonjo Shelvey had been a bruising presence for N’golo Kante and Daniel Drinkwater in midfield, and when Massadio Haidara beat Davide Zappacosta to put a cross in, Shelvey was there to make the connection… but Willy Caballero made one of his awesome reaction saves, put the ball out for a corner.
And then half an hour into the game, Pedro received possession from Rudiger in his own half, and played a beautiful, incisive through ball up the pitch for Eden Hazard.
Hazard took possession just inside the penalty area and laid the ball off to Marcos Alonso. He passed right to Batshuayi, who was loitering unmarked next to the penalty spot, easy finish past Karl Darlow, 1 – 0.
Chelsea suffered through lack of a real striker in their previous game vs Arsenal. This game, Michy Batshuayi showed them exactly what they’d been missing.
Effective On The Counter
Newcastle were a goal down and had to come forward now. Chelsea again took advantage. First, Antonio Rudiger dribbled past Shelvey and tried a shot from distance, but it curled just wide of the post.
Just before half time, Pedro stole possession to start another counter-attack. He passed to Batshuayi, got a return pass off a back-heel, then sent it upfield to Hazard.
Chancel Mbemba could not cover Hazard effectively, and he was able to find Batshuayi, who had controlled his run to stay just onside of Jamaal Lascelles. Batshuayi struck a low shot, and it took a looping deflection off Lascelles’ despairing tackle, over Darlow and into the net for 2 – 0.
Newcastle had their own first half chances but Chelsea held out; Matt Ritchie put a cross into the box, and Caballero had to dive low to keep Mbemba’s shot out. Zappacosta gave the ball away with a poor pass just outside the penalty area, before recovering possession at the last second to prevent a goal. Dwight Gayle rolled Rudiger and got in for a shot, but Caballero saved yet again.
Shutting The Game Down
Chelsea continued their dominance after the break. Rudiger’s cross came back to Pedro off Lascelles, but he shot just over the bar under pressure from the Newcastle captain.
Zappacosta crossed all the way to his fellow wing back at the far post – Alonso whipped a volley in off Javier Manquillo, but Darlow made a great save to keep it out.
And then on 72 minutes, Alonso produced one of his free kick specials: bent it over the wall and into the top corner from thirty yards for 3 – 0. Game. Officially. Shut. Down.
Zappacosta tried a shot himself from an acute angle, but the keeper touched it over.
Batshuayi took possession from an Alonso throw-in on the left wing and dribbled down the by-line. He put Henri Saivet on the floor and almost completed his hat trick, but Darlow saved again at the near post.
Fast Break Football
Rafa Benitez chose a different tactic from the first Newcastle-Chelsea game this season, in which his team sat back and defended in numbers, hoping to catch Chelsea out with a set piece or on the fast break.
This game, he set his team up to press and force Chelsea into errors in their own half, but it didn’t work either. Counterattacking is what Conte’s 3-4-3 is best at after all, and Chelsea were especially vicious on the break, with Pedro, Hazard and Batshuayi taking advantage of the opposition press to score the first two goals. And so Chelsea FC return to winning ways. Newcastle United… not so much.
Final Score Chelsea 3 – 0 Newcastle United
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Daily Mirror
Would you like to write for London is Blue? Click on the “contact us” tab located on the top menu, fill out the form, and we can get started!