Pedro and Willian strike down Newcastle in 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge


Chelsea extended the gap between themselves and Arsenal with a 2-1 win over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, Pedro and Willian the scorers, with Ciaran Clarke responding for the visitors.

Maurizio Sarri was without Alvaro Morata who missed the game through injury but opted for Eden Hazard as the spearhead to the attack, leaving Olivier Giroud on the bench. Rafa Benitez returned to his former club knowing coming away with nothing would leave his side in the relegation zone after results elsewhere went against the Tyneside club.

The game was young when Chelsea opened the scoring, and those Newcastle fans at Stamford Bridge feared the worst. David Luiz sent a sensational ball over the top for Pedro to bring down and open the scoring. The Spaniard, who scored his seventh goal of the season, saw Martin Dubravka in no-mans-land and delicately lobbed the ball into the net with just 10 minutes gone.

Chelsea dominated possession in the first half but the lack of an out and out striker which has hampered them previously was evident. Eden Hazard opted to roam across the front line, picking up the ball and looking to integrate himself into the game but that left no focal point to spearhead the attacks.

Newcastle took advantage of the space down the wings left by the marauding Cesar Azpilicueta, with Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie bombing forward earning themselves set piece situations. It was from a set piece that Newcastle equalised. Ritchie whipped a ball into the near post where Ciaran Clarke slammed the ball home with his head into the bottom corner that had been vacated by goalscorer Pedro. It was really a superb header, and worth watching again.

Newcastle continued to produce the more clear cut chances in the first half, Solomon Rondon had an opportunity to lash the ball in the net but delayed his shot and Antonio Rudiger managed to recover in time.

Chelsea started the second half in the ascendancy, forcing Newcastle back into their own half. Pedro again went close as he forced Dubravka into a fine low save. The resulting corner saw the Newcastle keeper palm the ball into the path of Marcos Alonso, who tried to tee up David Luiz for a left foot finish but the hardworking Atsu nicked the ball of the Brazilian’s toe.

Chelsea regained the lead 10 minutes after the restart, Willian picked up the ball on the left hand side before stepping inside and curling the ball into the far corner. The home side regained control of the ball and forced Newcastle into chasing shadows, as the gulf in quality began to shine through. David Luiz missed the target attempting a trademark free kick before he was scythed down in an accidental clash with Ayoze Perez.

Sarri then opted to introduce Calum Hodson-Odoi, who is heavily linked with a big money move away to Bayern Munich. The winger hoping to prove his worth to his current employers, coming on for the impressive Pedro. Much of the latter stages of the game were played in midfield, neither team could penetrate the others defence with any real quality.

The final minutes petered out with little to shout about. Chelsea comfortable in the win without truly exerting themselves. The gap to Arsenal in fifth place is now six points, the two sides meet next weekend at The Emirates.

Rafa Benitez’ side sit in 18th place, a point from Cardiff in 17th, and face an FA Cup replay against Blackburn in midweek before meeting Neil Warnock and Cardiff next weekend.


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