Rafa had a couple of selection problems for this match.
First whether to play Cech. Fortunately the medical team re-wrote the manual this week, post witnessing Turnbull in action a couple of times. Instead of stipulating that Cech should be rested if suffering a minor muscle strain the manual now states that unless Cech is undergoing open heart surgery Turnbull isn’t to be allowed anywhere near the first eleven.
Second, Rafa thought about resting Ashley so that there was no risk of him missing his 100th cap for the forthcoming England match. Having deliberated long and hard about club versus country Rafa eventually decided to take Cole to Newcastle.
Third, Rafa was concerned about width, not of his waistline but the team and, as the world’s fifth richest club according to the Deloitte Football Money League, decided to play an understudy left-back on the wing instead of a player purchased for that role.
All looked a bit laboured and leggy. Frank had a good chance after 14 minutes but belted the ball high over the bar.
The Newcastle fans made lots of noise each time Demba got the ball. To be honest I’m not sure if they were saying boo, or Ba with a Geordie accent, so I don’t know if they were pleased to see his return. Midway through the half a good through ball saw Ba get into a one on one with the keeper who managed to parry Ba’s first effort back to Ba who, as he headed the rebound, got smashed in the face by a defender’s boot. The ref gave nothing but surely a boot raised at head height that draws blood is dangerous play and should have been a penalty. Referees sometimes seem confused by the situation and location on the pitch but; inside or outside the box, it was a foul.
Ba sat on the sidelines being nursed by Eva Carneiro (did I mention I shook her hand in Swansea) with blood streaming out of his nose. It looked broken to me. With white tape strapped across his nose and face he re-entered the field of play, looking like Adam Ant, ready to stand and deliver. Unfortunately, despite his balls of steel, Rafa decided to replace him with Torres, whose balls aren’t steel but stolen, and we were effectively reduced to 10 men.
On 41 minutes Newcastle whipped in a cross and Gutierrez headed home from eight yards.
Just after half time the cameras showed Rafa writing notes. Unfortunately it wasn’t his letter of resignation but a note to his wife, stating that compared to the Geordie folk he’s not as fat as he’d feared so please cook the paella.
I was taken by surprise on 54 minutes when Frank struck home a fantastic shot from 20 yards. Sign him up!
After this we came to life and not long after the ball fell to Mata just inside the corner of the box and he curved a lovely shot around the helpless keeper.
2-1 up and all we had to do was hold the lead for 30 minutes, something that we’d found impossible at Reading after Adam Le Fondre (surely a second rate magic act touring northern clubs with a name like that) struck twice.
Sure enough within 10 minutes Newcastle cut us apart. Cech saved but punched out into the path of Sissoko to equalise.
Oscar got fouled on the touchline just in front of the benches and a heated altercation ensued between Rafa and Pardew. Who says Rafa doesn’t care about us?
The game got increasingly open and on 90 minutes Sissoko got his second to make it 3-2.
A late rally and Lampard’s shot on 94 minutes caused frantic appeals for handball but no penalty was given.
Two great goals should have been enough to win.
This is what supporting Chelsea is meant to be like and the last ten years have been an aberration.
I’d already stayed in Newcastle this season post the Sunderland game so decided to give this one a miss. But KaiserJonny is in Newcastle carrying the torch so I leave it to him to enjoy the sight of hefty Geordie birds in shockingly short skirts stumbling down Grey Street in their eight-inch heels.
The Sunday Telegraph, Luke Edwards: “Newcastle United have a new hero after a quite magnificent home debut from Moussa Sissoko saw him score twice to secure a thrilling victory over Chelsea and ensure it was a painful return for Demba Ba. Ba was given an early welcome back to Tyneside from Steven Taylor, who made sure he made contact with the striker’s back while heading a routine high ball clear. St James’ Park roared its delight. By half-time Ba was in agony, his nose smashed by another of his former teammates, Fabricio Coloccini, and Chelsea were behind. Ba might have given Chelsea the lead before his injury, running on to Frank Lampard’s pass, he got a shot away under pressure from Coloccini. Tim Krul made a good save, but Ba instinctively got his head on the rebound only to see the ball float wide of the goal as he took Coloccini’s boot full in the face.”
The Observer, Paul Wilson: “This was one of the best games of the season, a marvellously entertaining and eventful contest between two well-matched sides. Whether that flatters Newcastle or Chelsea most is a moot point, given their respective positions in the table, though it would appear that the home side’s latest top-up of French talent has restored the feelgood factor on Tyneside. That was true even before Moussa Sissoko rifled home a last-minute winner. That sort of exciting finale always send a crowd home happy, though even before that Newcastle had shown guts to climb back into the game at a point in the second half when Chelsea looked capable of running away with it. While it is not quite true, these days, to say not many teams come back against Chelsea, few will manage it when the Blues are playing this well.”
The Independent on Sunday, Martin Hardy: “You can, at least, not fault the defiance of Rafa Benitez. He again proved immovable, unlike his side. “We could have won every single game we draw or we lost, every single game,” he insisted after yesterday’s defeat. “In all the games we had chances and played good football in the majority of them. When we couldn’t we still had chances to win.” Fact: Chelsea have picked up 22 points from a possible 39 during his reign, two points less than Roberto di Matteo picked up from one less game this season. “We are trying to finish in the top four, or top three, and we can,” added Benitez. “We are still looking up towards Manchester City. With some players coming back I think we have more options. When we are in form and doing well we can beat anyone.” Fact: Chelsea have won three games out of their previous 10 in all competitions.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A late goal once again was the undoing of Chelsea, this time costing us all the points on a clear and chilly afternoon on Tyneside.”