The leaders made it four Premier League wins in a row thanks to two Reece James goals worthy of winning any contest plus the addition of a Jorginho penalty.
For much our visit to St James’ Park it looked like it would be a frustrating game against defensive opposition but our wing-backs have been doing the business in front of goal recently. That continued in style today with a goal-of-the-season contender from James with his left foot midway through the second half, followed soon after by one with his right.The temptation to present the young England international with a hat-trick chance from the penalty spot when Kai Havertz was fouled was resisted, so it was Jorginho who further silenced the home support.
By that stage, a sterile first half under the autumn sun on Tyneside had been largely forgotten. Hakim Ziyech had the best chance before the break but shot over having just had a goal ruled out for offside.Chelsea were faced with a five-man Newcastle defence and a deep midfield in front of it, and we were lacking Mason Mount due to illness, but we came out for the second half with a greater resolve to shoot at goal and it was a policy that paid dividends.We had started the day one point ahead but with Liverpool drawing at home to Brighton and Man City losing at home to Palace, that gap is now three points with 10 games played.
The Blues went into this game in good form and with confidence high after the run of recent results. In the back of some supporters’ minds will have been memories of past slip-ups at St James’ Park when going well but we won here comfortably last season and playing a team with no wins and just four points in the league so far, anything close to our form of late seemed likely to be good enough to do the job.The first half however made it clear we would need our best lock-picking skills this Saturday afternoon.
Newcastle dig in
Ryan Fraser flashed the ball across the Chelsea box in an early Toon attack but after that moment the game settled into a pattern, with Thomas Tuchel’s side having plenty of the ball in the home side’s half but faced with 11 opposing players in the final quarter of the pitch.Some skilful work from Havertz when he dropped deep instigated one attack that ended with a blocked volley from Ziyech, and Isaac Hayden was booked for going through on Christensen, but it remained a low-key start to the encounter.
Hakim hopes dashed
Chelsea’s approach play was good in parts, with some sharp movement off the ball in tight spaces, but frustratingly it was interspersed with the odd wayward pass or an untimely movement into an offside position.
On one such occasion, with 28 minutes played, that cost us a goal. Jorginho spotted Ziyech in space and fired the ball forward for the Moroccan to whip it over goalkeeper Karl Darlow and into the net, but his retreat into an onside position had come too late and the flag went up straightaway.
Five minutes later Ziyech had his hands on his head after skying a shot at the far post when he maybe was not expecting a cross to make it through the crowd in the middle to where he had run.Newcastle’s timewasting, particularly by their goalie, had been irritating the Blues, and the referee took action by showing yellow to Ritchie when he dithered over a throw.A rare Newcastle attack came with three minutes to go before the break but fortunately Jamaal Lascelles, still up from the back after a free-kick, did not connect how he wanted when getting a head to Ciaran Clark’s cross.Just before the interval, Ziyech sent a 25-yard free-kick over the bar so the game reached the halfway stage scoreless. On what had happened so far, it was not apparent where a goal could come from.
Ziyech did his best to show the route to goal when he struck the post in the opening minutes of the second half. He had already hit one shot straight at Darlow after the restart and another from outside the penalty area took a deflection off Lascelles onto the woodwork.Havertz then upped the on-target count with a strike that was comfortable for the keeper.Kante and Ziyech entered the book in quick succession, the latter for ending a dangerous Newcastle counter after Havertz had shot into a covering defender but the Blues continued to increase the goal threat since the interval, mostly with our shots from outside the area. James was the next to see his saved. His moments would come. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley came on in a double switch but before either of them could make their presence felt, James’s spectacular had smashed the Blues into the lead.
The danger had emanated from the left and a Hudson-Odoi cross. Players attacked it, there was a touch, but it came to our right wing-back out on the other side of the area. He took one touch with his right and then with his supposed weaker foot, he rifled it into the far top corner – a strike of awesome accuracy and power that had the Blues fans high above that goal in raptures.They were even happier 10 minutes later when after Loftus-Cheek had seen a good attempt blocked, James was there again in a similar position to crack in his second goal with his right boot this time.Before long it was 3-0 to the Blues. Havertz was brought down by keeper Darlow and Jorginho, who was not on the pitch for the midweek shoot-out win over Southampton, returned to penalty duties and had no trouble striking it high into the net.
We had needed patience, but in the end the well-deserved three points were ours.
Clean sheets keep coming
With another shut-out today, the Blues continue our record of more clean sheets than goals conceded in the Premier League since Tuchel became manager. It is now 18 clean sheets to 16 goals that have gone in.It is the first time we have won three away league games on the spin without conceding since November 2016 when we were on the way to winning the title under Antonio Conte.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy; Christensen, Thiago Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante (Loftus-Cheek 64), Jorginho (c), Chilwell; Ziyech (Barkley 64), Havertz, Hudson-Odoi (Saul 88)Subs Arrizabalaga, Bettinelli, Alonso, Azpilicueta, Chalobah, SarrScorers James 65, 77, Jorginho pen 81Booked Kante 54, Ziyech 57
Newcastle (5-3-2): Darlow; Manquillo, Krafth, Lascelles (c), Clark, Ritchie; Hayden (Almiron 67), S Longstaff (Shelvey 81), Fraser (Willock 67); Wilson, Saint-MaximinSubs Dubravka, Schar, Lewis, Murphy, Joelinton, Gayle Booked Hayden 17, Ritchie 39, Lascelles 55Referee Paul TierneyCrowd 52,209