Newcastle United 0 – 1 Chelsea

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Match reports

Daily Telegraph, Tim Rich: “Newcastle’s search for a trophy has come to grief at Chelsea’s hands with what by the Tyne must seem depressingly regular intervals. This was the eighth time in 10 years they had barred Newcastle’s way in cup competitions and only once, when they lost an FA Cup tie in the January snows last year, had the outcome been anything other than defeat.”

The Guardian, Michael Walker: “As Glenn Roeder surveyed his visitors’ teamsheet he quipped that the Chelsea substitutes constituted “the best five-a-side team in the world”. Sadly for Newcastle, their manager was to be proved near the mark with that analysis as Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and finally Didier Drogba made their way from the sidelines and into the action. Drogba required a mere five minutes to strut forward and score his 17th goal of a rousing season.”

The Times, George Caulkin: “The first recorded expression of regret from José Mourinho did not pre-empt an apologetic performance by his Chelsea team last night. The sorrow was all Newcastle United’s; that a meaningful trophy remains elusive, that Glenn Roeder did not buy Didier Drogba for West Ham United many moons ago and that where Chelsea have a Russian owner, Tyneside could not conjure a Russian linesman.”

The Independent, Simon Rushworth: “[T]he incident which ultimately decided a predictably hard-fought game between two familiar cup foes was a clear case of foul play as the Newcastle midfielder Nicky Butt crudely halted Arjen Robben’s run on goal. The Dutchman already had just cause to go down a second earlier when United’s emergency right-back, Nolberto Solano, clipped his heels but, to his credit, the midfielder stayed on his feet.”

Black & White & Read All Over, Paul: “For the second time in eight days, Drogba proved to be the difference, as he again came off the bench to score with about quarter of an hour left to play. This time his goal coming from a well struck free-kick, won after first Solano and then Nicky Butt had done their best to flatten Arjen Robben (unsurprisingly Butt proving the more effective). However, that foul took place a good four yards from where the free kick was taken, with Chelsea surreptitiously relocating the ball to give Drogba a better angle to strike the set piece, and in doing so enabling him to curl the ball beyond Shay Given.”

The good

  1. We’re through to the semi-finals of the League Cup. Jose Mourinho’s only loss in the competition to date was last season’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Charlton at Stamford Bridge.
  2. The performance may not have set the world on fire, but we never really looked like losing. Obafemi Martins’ shot which struck the underside of Hilario’s crossbar and landed plum on the goal line was the nearest the Magpies came to scoring.
  3. Though clearly not the finished article, Salomon Kalou does impress me at times. It’s just a shame he couldn’t produce it over the whole 90 minutes.
  4. Of the players on the pitch from the start, Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho stood out. Carvalho is playing with an ankle injury too. An unsung hero. Frank Lampard made a difference after coming off the bench.
  5. Didier Drogba. Within five minutes of coming on, the Ivorian scored his 17th goal of the season. Our reliance on Drogba is worrisome.

The bad

  1. The 4-3-3 formation made very little difference. Many of us had called for Andriy Shevchenko to be played in a 4-3-3 with two wingers, but in this game the wide players offered him no support whatsoever. He’s sure to come in for more undeserved criticism.
  2. Bar Shevchenko’s only shot on goal which struck Shay Given’s right-hand post on the stroke of half time, we created very little in the Magpies’ penalty box. All our efforts on goal were limited to long range shots, as they were against Everton on Sunday.
  3. Arjen Robben has the same problem as Andy Johnson, in that his reputation for “diving” precedes him. The free kick from which Drogba scored the winner was perfectly legitimate: Robben did his best to ride a rash tackle from Nolberto Solano before being flattened by Nicky Butt. Try telling 35,000 myopic Geordies that.
  4. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve hit the woodwork in recent games.
  5. When are we going to turn up for both halves?

Man of the Match

Didier Drogba, despite only playing around 15 minutes of the second half?

Final thoughts

We are not playing well, but we’re through to the semi-finals of the League Cup, the last sixteen of the Champions League, and two points off top spot in the Premiership. It can’t be all bad.

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