BY PAUL LAGAN
Newcastle 1 v Chelsea 0
A genuine lack of creativity haunted Chelsea as the west Londoners lost 1-0 to a last minute smash and grab goal by Isaac Hayden as Newcastle pinched the three points in the late afternoon match at St James’ Park.
Deep into the fourth minute of added time at the end of the game, the ball was pumped into Chelsea penalty area, and up popped Hayden at the far post with only Antonio Rudiger for company. But he was ineffective as the ball was headed past Kepa to give the home side the most unlikely of victories.
Chelsea had dominated the game in terms of possession, but how they wish they had a Glenn Hoddle or Ray Wilkins, who could open up a tight defence with their eyes closed.
They simply had no answer to a packed final third – resulting in snail-paced square passing with only the occasional deft flick to suggest they had an an idea to break the packed rearguard.
For the Blues this was a game similar to those they have experienced at home all season – an opposition geared up to defend deep, show no or little appetite to push forward and hope for the break
Newcastle were forced into an early substitution, when Jetro Willems injured his knee in a challenge with Callum Hudson-Odoi after 12 minutes, Matt Richie replaced him.
With their first attack of the game on 22 minutes, Joelinton rattled the Chelsea crossbar when the Brazil striker out jumped Reece James and produced a powerful header from a Federico Fernandez right-wing cross.
Tammy Abraham flicked a deft right-footer onto the Newcastle crossbar on 34 minutes, but was adjudged to be offside.
N’Golo Kante forced Dubravka into a smart near-post save with a angled drive a minute later as the Blues responded well.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Willian had a great chance on 53 minutes when a quick break by the Blues saw the Brazil wide man alone on the edge of the penalty area. But he screwed a low, left-footer disappointingly wide of goal.
This was quickly followed by a powerful drive by left back Cesar Azpilicueta – Dubravka got his body well behind the goal-bound effort.
Jonjo Shelvey had a 20 yarder easily held by Kepa on 58 minutes as the game tried to explode into life.
Head coach Frank Lampard had seen enough of the lack of ingenuity from his side and opted to replace Mason Mount with Ross Barkley on 66 minutes.
Within minutes, Lampard was forced to make an enforced substitution as James hobbled off with an injury to be replaced by Emerson. Azpilicueta switched flanks to replace him.
The Blues saw a Abraham flick inch past Dubravka but Richie hacked the ball off the goal-line.
Abraham was instantly replaced by Michy Batshuayi.
Emerson let fly with a wonderful left-footer with seven minutes left on the clock. But the ball took a slight deflection that took it away from the top left hand corner of the Newcastle net and for a corner instead.
A Joelinton scuffed shot went wide of Kepa’s right post as the home side made their occasional foray into Chelsea final third.
Then came the killer final 30 seconds – Kepa got his hands to the Hayden header but it wasn’t enough to prevent a dispiriting journey home for the vocal fans.
Chelsea face Arsenal at home on Tuesday evening in the Premier League.
Teams: Chelsea, Kepa, James, Christensen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Mount, Jorginho, Kante, Willian, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham
Subs: Barkley, Pedro, Caballero, Zouma, Kovacic, Batshuayi, Emerson
Newcastle: Dubravka, Krafth, Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark, Willems, Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton
Subs: Schar, Richie, Lejeune, Darlow, Atsu, S Longstaff, M Longstaff
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
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