MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 2 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
The Blues remain at the top of the Premier League, albeit having played a game more than most of our rivals, after a 2-0 win against Newcastle United, our third straight victory in less than a week.
It was an impressive performance which saw most of the damage being done before the break, as goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres saw us seize the initiative.
Hazard opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 21st minute, drilling his strike beyond Tim Krul after Torres had been brought down by Vurnon Anita.
It was a goal our performance had deserved, and a minute before the break we extended our lead, this time Hazard feeding Torres, who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner.
Chances were few and far between in the second half but there was little doubt that we fully deserved the three points, our first win over Newcastle at the Bridge since the 2007/08 campaign.
Next week sees an interruption to our domestic season as we take on Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup, but we resume in three weeks with a London derby against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
Roberto Di Matteo made three changes to the side which beat Reading 4-2 in midweek. With captain John Terry missing with a neck injury, David Luiz came back into the side to partner Gary Cahill in central defence. Frank Lampard started on the substitutes' bench, replaced by Raul Meireles, while Ryan Bertrand, an unused sub on Wednesday, was given the nod ahead of Ramires. Petr Cech captained the side in the absence of both Terry and Lampard, while both Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses, our two latest additions, played no part in the game.
Newcastle were unbeaten on their previous four league visits to Stamford Bridge, but it was the Blues who started the brighter of the two sides. Bertrand and Juan Mata linked up well down the left inside three minutes, only for the youngster to put too much weight on his cross, while soon after Meireles tried his luck with a speculative effort which sailed over the bar.
Torres then pounced on a loose ball, driving at the Newcastle defence, but after the Spaniard held it up intelligently, he laid it into the path of the advancing John Mikel Obi - a player not renowned for his goalscoring prowess - who fired over.
The visitors were content to defend deep and look to cause us problems on the break, and it was Demba Ba, scorer of their opener last week against Tottenham Hotspur, who had their first sight of goal, volleying high and wide from Hatem Ben Arfa's pass.
Hazard, so instrumental in our opening two games, had been a peripheral figure early on, but the Belgian sprung into life in the 14th minute with a quick burst and shot which was comfortable for Krul.
Three minutes later and the Blues had the best chance of the game. A deep ball from Meireles found Torres with his back to goal, and as the striker controlled it and found Bertrand, his shot, under pressure from Fabricio Collocini, was straight at Krul.
The game had started fairly slowly, but in the 20th minute we were awarded our third penalty in as many games.
Torres, who had looked lively in the early stages, darted into the Newcastle box before being tripped by Vurnon Anita, Phil Dowd showing no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
With regular penalty taker Lampard not on the field of play, it was Hazard who took responsibility, and the 21-year-old scored his first goal for the club with a powerful, low strike into the bottom corner.
Branislav Ivanovic, with two goals to his name already this campaign, almost made it three in three on the half-hour mark, rising highest to meet Ashley Cole's cross, but Krul saved well down to his right.
Ten minutes before the break we almost doubled our advantage with a flowing move down the left which ended with Fabricio Coloccini clearing Mata's dangerous cross after he was fed by Hazard.
Shortly after, the Chelsea bench were on their feet when Torres looked to have been brought down by Coloccini after evading the defender.
It seemed a strange decision, and Dowd's popularity with the home supporters took a turn for the worse when Torres was shown a yellow card for simulation.
Papiss Cisse, scorer of both Newcastle goals during their 2-0 win at the Bridge back in May, had Newcastle's first real attempt on goal as the half drew to a close, capitalising on some sloppy defending by David Luiz, but his effort was easy for Cech.
Right on the stroke of half-time it was 2-0, with Torres scoring the goal his first-half performance had merited; exchanging passes with Hazard on the edge of the box before bending a delightful effort into the top corner with the outside of his right foot, giving Krul no chance.
There were no changes to personnel for either side at the break, Di Matteo clearly content with what he'd seen in the opening 45 minutes.
The first chance of the second half fell to the visitors as they looked to reduce the two-goal deficit, Ben Arfa twisting and turning on the edge of the box before fizzing a strike narrowly past Cech's left-hand post.
As the heavens opened, the game began to open up, with Newcastle intent on forcing themselves back into it and the Blues eager to kill it off on the counter-attack.
Cech was forced into a smart save by Cisse at his near-post after Mikel's clearance had ran into the striker's path, while at the other end it took a last-ditch intervention from Yohan Cabaye to prevent Torres from meeting Mata's cross.
Both managers made their first changes of the evening shortly after the hour mark, with Ramires replacing Mata for the Blues in a bid to inject some fresh legs, while Ryan Taylor came on at the expense of Danny Simpson for Pardew's side.
With much of the game being played in the middle of the park as both defences looked to keep it tight, there was little goalmouth action to speak of at either end.
David Luiz and Meireles fired successive free-kicks over the bar for Chelsea, and with the clock ticking down, Pardew made his final two substitutions, Sylvain Marveaux and James Perch replacing Davide Santon and Cabaye respectively.
Bertrand almost put the game out of Newcastle's reach with a low drive from outside the box, and would have, but for a deflection which saw it deflected behind for a corner.
With seven minutes left to play Newcastle were almost back in the game, Ba reacting quickest to a loose ball in the Chelsea penalty area, but as the striker fired towards goal, Cech made a stunning save low down to his right to deny him.
Lampard was introduced for Meireles with three minutes remaining as Di Matteo looked to utilise the midfielder's experience and see the game out, and with Newcastle still hoping to force a nervy finish, David Luiz suffered a head injury as he collided with Ba clearing a dangerous cross.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Meireles (Lampard 87), Mikel; Mata (Ramires 67), Hazard, Bertrand; Torres.
Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Essien, Romeu, Oscar, Sturridge.
Scorers Hazard 22 (pen), Torres 45+2
Booked Torres 39
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson (R Taylor 63), S Taylor, Coloccini (c), Santon (Marveaux 74); Ben Arfa, Cabaye (Perch 77), Anita, Gutierrez; Ba, Cisse.
Unused substitutes: Harper, Williamson, Obertan, Amalfitano.Referee Phil Dowd
Referee: Phil Dowd