Wednesday 9th May, St. James’ Park – It was the final day of the 2018 Premier League season, and Chelsea were in Newcastle for their last attempt at picking up points to help secure Champions League qualification.
Just four days before, Huddersfield Town had brought an end to the Blues’ four game win streak, on their way to themselves escaping relegation from the Premier League.
Newcastle United were hoping to break a four-game losing streak that started after their 2-1 win v Arsenal mid-April. They were also looking to change their fortunes against today’s opposition. This was the third meeting between the sides this season, and Antonio Conte’s team had won the two previous encounters 3-1 in the league, and 3-0 in the FA Cup.
Newcastle lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with Mohamed Diame and Jonjo Shelvey in midfield, and Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez and Jacob Murphy behind Dwight Gayle in attack. There was just one change to the eleven that lost 1-0 to Tottenham mid-week; Jacob Murphy came in for loan winger Kenedy, who was ineligible to play against his parent club.
Antonio Conte rotated heavily, making eight changes to the eleven from their previous game. Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill, Emerson Palmieri, Victor Moses, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud all started in today’s 3-4-3.
Chelsea had a couple of surprises for their fans: Ross Barkley was preferred ahead of Willian (and Pedro) at the right of the front three, and the team were sporting the new Nike home kit with red and white highlights for 2018/19.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 13, 2018
Line-Ups & Ratings
Dubravka 8.5, Lejeune 8, Lascelles 8, Dummett 7, Yedlin 7.5, Diame 8 (Haidara 6), Shelvey 8.5, Murphy 8, Ritchie 8 (Hayden 6.5), Perez 9, Gayle 7.5 (Joselu 7)
Subs Darlow, Hayden, Haidara, Manquillo, Merino, Gomez, Joselu
Courtois 6, Moses 6, Azpilicueta 6, Christensen 5, Cahill 5.5, Emerson 6, Kante 6.5, Bakayoko 5.5, Barkley 7 (Willian 5), Hazard 6.5 (Pedro 5). Giroud 6.5 (Morata 5)
Subs Caballero, Alonso, Rudiger, Fabregas, Willian, Pedro, Morata
Power Play In Midfield
Newcastle United were by far the better team in the first half. Their opponents seemed to lack energy and chemistry, and simply could not cope with the Diame-Shelvey tandem in midfield. For their part, when out of possession Newcastle proved very capable of shutting down Chelsea’s forward and wing attacking play.
The Magpies first tested Courtois nine minutes in. Diame lobbed the ball to the edge of the area, and Perez headed across to Gayle, who chested it out to set up Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey rocketed a volley in from thirty yards out, but Courtois got to it before Cesar Azpilicueta cleared.
Newcastle almost caught their opponents on the fast break ten minutes later. Perez spread the ball wide right, and Matt Ritchie cut a cross back into the box. Kante dived in to intercept, but almost redirected the ball into his own net. Fortunately for him, Courtois was alert and able to palm the ball away.
N’golo Kante is typically the model of consistent, quality midfield play for Chelsea, but he had a difficult game today. Barely a minute after almost scoring an own goal, Diame caught Kante dawdling on the ball on the edge of the Chelsea box, stripped him of possession and immediately struck a low shot just wide of the post.
It was constant Newcastle pressure now. Something had to give, and it did halfway through the first half. Ritchie played a cross from midfield deep into the penalty area, where Murphy raced in past Moses and tried to chip Courtois.
The Belgian keeper was able to get back and scoop the ball off the goal-line, but only as far as Dwight Gayle, who had an easy finish to make. He headed the ball into the back of the net for 1-0.
Perez had the chance to make it two when he ran onto a cross from the right wing, but he dragged his shot just wide from the edge of the box.
The Blues are behind at the break.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 13, 2018
Game Over Dude
The away fans might have expected Chelsea to come out swinging in the second half, but there still seemed to be a lack of urgency about their play.
Perhaps they were influenced by the news that Liverpool were already 2-0 up at Anfield, courtesy of goals from ex-Chelsea player Mohamed Salah, and Dejan Lovren. Realistically, Chelsea’s dream of qualifying for the Champions League was over for this year.
Barkley played a deep cross in from the right, and Giroud tried an acrobatic flick to loop the ball in over Martin Dubravka, but the Slovakian keeper made an outstanding save to put the ball over the bar.
Kante played a through ball to the right of the penalty area, and Barkley hooked a low cross into the six yard box, but Dubravka cut the cross out himself.
The next attack of the game saw Newcastle go two nil up. Tiemoue Bakayoko made a weak clearance out of Chelsea’s box, and the ball fell to Shelvey just outside the area. He whipped in another low shot, and Ayoze Perez got a slight touch to direct the ball past Courtois and inside the post for 2-0.
Chelsea were stung, but not quite into action. Diame and Murphy combined to take possession off Azpilicueta in their defensive third, and blazed up the pitch on the fast break. Murphy tried a high cross in from the left but Andreas Christensen was able to head the ball out of danger.
Newcastle attempted another cross moments later, this time from the right wing, but Azpilicueta made amends for his earlier mistake, heading the ball out for a corner.
Chelsea took possession off the corner and almost scored on the break themselves. Barkley played the ball out to Hazard on the right, and he put the ball into the box, back to Barkley. The cross was slightly behind Barkley but he managed to get it under control, and shot at goal, but Dubravka made another great save from point blank range.
Chelsea were second best all over the pitch now. Hazard was dispossessed by Perez as he tried to play the ball out from the left back position, and he dragged the Newcastle forward down in desperation.
Jonjo Shelvey took the resulting free kick. It was a beautifully crafted set piece from Rafa Bentitez’s boys. Three touches from start to finish, the ball not touching the ground until it was in the net once again.
Shelvey looped the ball over Chelsea’s scrambling defenders to the far post, where Florian Lejeune had run round the wall to volley a cross into the six yard box. Perez took the final touch, and finished into an empty net from close range. Just 59 minutes played, Newcastle United 3-0 Chelsea FC.
Newcastle at home to the top-six in the Premier League this season:
0-2 vs. Spurs
1-1 vs. Liverpool
0-1 vs. Man City
1-0 vs. Man Utd
2-1 vs. Arsenal
3-0 vs. Chelsea
Rafa Benítez and co. ending the season on a high. ⚪⚫ pic.twitter.com/u7BVqjUvAy
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 13, 2018
Barkley managed to put Moses through on goal nine minutes later, but the Nigerian winger was crowded off the ball by Jamaal Lascelles, and fell over as he was about to take a shot from close range.
Moses curled a cross behind Newcastle’s back line to the far post, but Giroud’s strike went well off target.
A couple of late crosses from Moses and Emerson seem to sum up the game for Chelsea. Both were high and aimless, and went to nobody in particular.
Alvaro Morata, Willian and Pedro came on for Giroud, Barkley and Hazard in the last fifteen minutes, but they made very little impact on play, and none on the result. By full time Newcastle had only enjoyed about 40% of possession, but had sixteen shots (six on target) to Chelsea’s six (two on target).
The Magpies closed out a deserved win to finish 10th on 44 points, while the Premier League’s defending champions rounded up their 2018 campaign with another huge defeat, this time to a newly promoted side.
Final Score Newcastle United 3-0 Chelsea
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Sky Sports
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