Chelsea were beaten by an injury-time goal in Newcastle as Isaac Hayden’s late header found its way beyond Kepa and into the back of the net to condemn Frank Lampard’s side to a first away defeat since early December.
The Blues were largely in control throughout, claiming 70 per cent of the possession and 19 shots across the 90 minutes but failing to score on the road since the opening day of the season. N’Golo Kante had our best chance of the first half but fired straight at the home goalkeeper, while Tammy Abraham threatened a breakthrough after the break but couldn’t quite find himself a clear sight at goal.
The Magpies had hit the woodwork before the interval and then the sting in the tail came late in added time as we failed to deal with the second phase of a corner and Hayden stole in to head downwards and past our goalkeeper, who got his hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out. The result maintains our five-point cushion in the top four ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
Fit-again Kante returned to the side in the only change from last weekend’s win over Burnley, replacing Ross Barkley in midfield. The back four was the same as the combination that had kept a clean sheet against the Clarets, with Andreas Christensen retained alongside Toni Rudiger at centre-back.
It was a cagey and stop-start opening in the North-East as the Blues assumed control of proceedings from the first whistle and tentatively made probing enquiries to break through the black-and-white defensive wall. Yet only a blocked shot from Cesar Azpilicueta, the captain, and a half-chance for Mason Mount that quickly disappeared was all we had to show for our effort in the first 15 minutes.
The Newcastle physio has been the busiest man in Tyneside in recent weeks and he was back on the pitch attending to another casualty early on as Jetro Willems was forced off from his left wing-back position.
Callum Hudson-Odoi had a momentary sight at goal not long after when Mount floated a teasing ball over the top of the Magpies’ back-line but goalkeeper Martin Dubravka was off his line quickly to avert the danger.
Steve Bruce’s side soon settled and began to pose an attacking threat of their own, particularly with balls into the box. Kepa Arrizabalaga did well to punch one such delivery clear but our Spanish stopper could do nothing when Joelinton slipped into space eight yards out and crashed Federico Fernandez’s cross against the crossbar with a header.
Down the other end, Abraham found space to get a shot away from 30 yards out but fired high into the Newcastle fans. Yet the England striker was much closer to breaking the deadlock moments later as he latched on to Willian’s inswinging cross and flicked the ball cleverly towards goal but against the post. Kante’s flicked header had ruled our number nine offside, in any case.
Kante was on the end of our best chance of the first half not long after that, running intelligently in behind the home defence to collect Reece James’s slide-rule pass but the angle quickly narrowed and the midfielder fired straight at Dubravka. Fernandez had the final chance before the break, spurning a header over Kepa’s bar.
Statistically, St James’s Park has been an unhappy hunting ground for the Blues, with a Premier League win percentage of just 29.2 – only at Anfield, Old Trafford and Arsenal’s twin homes of Highbury/The Emirates have we won less often. Those frustrations continued after the restart as we toiled but lacked the final-third quality to conjure the game’s breakthrough goal.
Willian remained at the heart of much of our best play and the Brazilian was the beneficiary of a quick counter-attacking move from the visitors after 53 minutes. Abraham and Mount combined down the right and set our number 10 running forward down the opposite flank but his left-footed effort drifted wide of the far post.
Despite dominating more than two-thirds of possession, Newcastle’s compact shape and hard-working approach had restricted our shots on target to only a few as the hour mark approached. Azpilicueta was not the ideal candidate to take aim at goal from 25 yards out and his strike was gathered comfortably by Dubravka, who did the same up against Kante moments later.
Lampard introduced Barkley to inject some quality on the ball and a cutting edge, with the 26-year-old’s arrival adding a new threat. There was some fortune to the chance that fell Abraham’s way with 72 minutes on the clock as the ball ricocheted into his path but the angle was always against the young striker and he fired wide off-balance.
Abraham’s final opportunity of the evening came with 10 minutes remaining following an incisive pass forward by Jorginho and a header into the six-yard box from Azpilicueta but he couldn’t stretch to make sure enough contact and Dubravka made the save again. Michy Batshuayi came on in his place soon after as the Blues tried everything to create a winning chance.
It was another substitute, Emerson Palmieri, who went closest in the final exchanges. Willian had made a dangerous advance down the right wing and his low delivery made it all the way to the full-back on the edge of the box. His effort was struck sweetly but flashed just wide with the aid of a last-ditch deflection.
The hosts had their smash-and-grab chance with two minutes of normal time remaining when Miguel Almiron delivered deep into the box and Allan Saint-Maximin touched it perfectly into Joelinton’s path, though the execution of the forward’s shot was poor and he skewed the chance wide.
Hudson-Odoi had what we thought was the last chance of the night when cutting inside from the left and firing over but there was time still remaining for a cruel stoppage-time blow. Willian headed clear a corner from the left but Saint-Maximin recycled it back into the box and Hayden rose to guide it past Kepa.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Kepa; James (Emerson 75), Rudiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta (c); Jorginho, Kante, Mount (Barkley 68); Hudson-Odoi, Abraham (Batshuayi 80), Willian
Unused subs Caballero, Zouma, Kovacic, Pedro
Booked Emerson 84
Newcastle (5-4-1) Dubravka; Krafth (S Longstaff 71), Fernandez, Clark, Lascelles (c), Willems (Ritchie 12); Joelinton, Hayden, Shevley (M Longstaff 84), Saint-Maximin; Almiron
Unused subs Darlow, Schar, Lejeune, Atsu
Scorer Hayden 90+4
Booked Hayden 55
Referee Chris Kavanagh