Kai Havertz struck again to save the day late on for Chelsea, securing our fifth straight league victory with a masterful finish at the end of an even game at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues had been left frustrated for much of the afternoon as Newcastle United’s hard-working approach limited our ability to create notable opportunities. Edouard Mendy made the only save of a feisty but fruitless first half, palming away from Miguel Almiron in stoppage time, while the hosts were limited to efforts sent high or wide.
There was little change after the break, with Havertz spearheading our attacking efforts and sending a header straight into the gloves of Martin Dubravka. As it looked like the points would be shared and a first goalless draw in almost a year at the Bridge seemed inevitable, the 22-year-old fired in his 11th goal of the season in breathtaking fashion.
Taking a pass from Jorginho with a silky first touch, the German finished emphatically with his second and wrapped up the win for a Chelsea side now 11 points clear of fifth place in the Premier League.
There were four changes from our last outing away at Norwich City three days previously and a change in system as Thomas Tuchel went with a back four in the absence of Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James, Trevoh Chalobah deputising at right-back and Malang Sarr brought in on the left.
N’Golo Kante returned in midfield alongside captain Jorginho, while Hakim Ziyech came in on the right of our attack and Mason Mount dropped into the midfield.
For Newcastle, there were also four alterations from their 2-1 midweek win at Southampton, with goalscorers Chris Wood and Bruno Guimaraes retained by Eddie Howe.
High and wide
With seven of our final 11 Premier League games this season at Stamford Bridge, home comforts will be crucial for the Blues to end the campaign in a positive manner and we started brightly under the light grey skies of south-west London, hoping to once again cancel out the noise emanating away from the field.
Andreas Christensen provided the first sight at goal inside two minutes, taking aim with a rasping right-footed effort from 25 yards after Kante had got in down the left and delivered. Unfortunately for the Dane, the strike was always rising and ended up in with the Chelsea supporters behind the goal at the Matthew Harding end.
Moments later, the Chelsea set-piece threat which has been so strong this season proved effective again as the returning Antonio Rudiger got on the end of a corner from the left, though his downward header deflected away from danger.
Down the other end, Chalobah was tested in his role filling in at full-back, expertly judging the flight of a long pass forward and hooking the ball away to safety with Jacob Murphy lurking.
Newcastle’s joy came from set-pieces of their own and Matt Targett delivered deep midway through the first half to find Fabian Schar at the back post, though Mendy was alert to grasp the loose ball and the offside flag went up anyway.
Yet it proved a reminder of the Magpies’ ability to trouble our reliable rearguard, the second-best in the league, and a warning to the hosts in a game of small margins.
Searching for a breakthrough
Most of Chelsea’s attacking endeavours came down the flanks, with Mount on the left soon supported by a typically rampaging run forward from Rudiger.
From the resulting corner, Ziyech chipped an inviting ball to the edge of the box where Mount lay in wait, though the England international couldn’t connect with the requisite power or accuracy to trouble Newcastle keeper Dubravka.
Ziyech was involved in another forward foray soon after, combining neatly with Havertz down the right to tee up a chance for Timo Werner, though the striker’s deflected effort trickled harmlessly wide.
The Moroccan was fulfilling a dual role out wide once again, pushing forward to join the front three when the Blues had possession but then asked to track wing-back Targett when the visitors ventured forward, leaving him with plenty of work to do and ground to cover.
Mendy keeps out
While Havertz flashed a cross through Dubravka’s six-yard box and Mount fired a free-kick into the side-netting from a tight angle, Tuchel will have been left disappointed that we went into the interval without a shot on target.
The half’s only effort to test a goalkeeper came in stoppage time when Almiron’s measured volley was palmed clear by Mendy. Before then, Dan Burn used all of his 6ft 7in frame to glance a cross from the right towards the far corner, narrowly missing the target.
The former Brighton defender was also involved in an aerial clash with Havertz, a challenge the referee David Coote deemed a yellow card offence, which was subsequently backed up by a swift VAR check.
Both these sides came into the contest unbeaten in their previous nine games, with renaissance club Newcastle powering away from danger under Howe following decisive January investment. The former Bournemouth boss had a good record in SW6 with the Cherries, winning on three visits with an aggressive 3-4-3, and he had tweaked his usual back four to go with the same approach here.
Guimaraes had the first chance of the second half, firing off target from just inside the box, but clear-cut opportunities remained at a premium throughout a frantic and feisty restart, prompting Tuchel to send on Romelu Lukaku and Mateo Kovacic just after the hour mark.
Just prior to that double swap, Werner had escaped in behind the Magpies’ defence and was seemingly brought down by the onrushing Dubravka, though a late call for offside spared the Slovakian’s blushes. Werner was one of those departing alongside Mount as the Blues freshened up their attacking options, still searching for a first effort on target in the match.
Havertz header goes close
With 13 minutes remaining, the Blues finally tested Dubravka with a combination from the right. Ziyech cut inside and delivered a perfect inswinging cross that found the clever run of Havertz, who had left Jamaal Lascelles in his wake.
The German, with four goals in his past four appearances, made decent contact but aimed it straight into the grateful gloves of the goalkeeper. Sean Longstaff soon fired over but the drama was still to come as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes.
Winning it late
In a game that had lacked quality, the winner was truly world-class in its precision and panache. Jorginho floated a perfect pass over the top to find Havertz and our prolific striker did the rest, taking one touch to stun the ball under his control and then another to finish past the goalkeeper, almost all in one swift stunning movement.
It was the fifth game in seven in which the silky German had netted for Chelsea, underlining possibly the best form of his career in England. In stoppage time, he almost made it 2-0 when running clear down the right but Dubravka’s fingertips pushed the effort onto the crossbar.
Nevertheless, Tuchel’s men had found a way to win again in testing circumstances, continuing a run of league victories that stretches back to mid-January. Tuchel celebrated the winner wildly on the touchline and again at the final whistle with his coaching colleagues, another impressive result banked by his battling side.
Two more games before the final international break of the season see us travel to France for the second leg of our Champions League last-16 clash against Lille with a 2-0 lead before we head to Middlesbrough for an FA Cup quarter-final tie.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Mendy; Chalobah, Christensen, Rudiger, Sarr (Pulisic 78); Jorginho (c), Kante, Mount (Kovacic 63); Ziyech, Havertz, Werner (Lukaku 63)Unused subs Kepa, Alonso, Thiago Silva, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek, SaulScorer Havertz 89Booked Havertz 39; Ziyech 58; Kovacic 87; Rudiger 90+1
Newcastle United (3-4-3) Dubravka; Schar, Burn, Lascelles (c); Manquilo, S. Longstaff, Guimaraes, Targett; Almiron (Saint-Maximin 69), Wood, Murphy (Fraser 90+1)Unused subs Darlow, Gillespie, Dummett, Krafth, De Bolle, Gayle, RitchieBooked Murphy 50; Guimaraes 80
Referee David CooteCrowd 40,026