13th of May 2018

Blues defated in Premier League final game (3-0)

Liverpool’s victory over Brighton at Anfield meant even a win at St James’ wouldn’t have been enough for us to sneak into the Champions League places, but this was still a disheartening way to bring the curtain down on our Premier League season. Much improvement will be required if we are to lift the FA Cup at Wembley next weekend.

Newcastle dominated the first half and deservedly took the lead through Dwight Gayle’s close-range header. Thibaut Courtois, our best player before the interval, had initially saved excellently from Jacob Murphy, and he also had to deny Gayle, Jonjo Shelvey, Mo Diame and Ayoze Perez.

It was the Spanish forward who finished us off with two goals in four minutes either side of the hour, although Olivier Giroud had come close to levelling before then with an impudent flick during our best passage of the game. Ross Barkley, lively during his 75 minutes on the pitch, also forced Martin Dubravka into a fine stop during the second half.

So all eyes on Wembley now as the Blues look to quickly put this result and performance behind us.

Barkley started in midfield to appear for the first time since the end of January, and Emerson was selected in the left wing-back role he had impressed in during recent victories over Burnley, Southampton and Swansea. Courtois returned in goal after injury, and Eden Hazard supported Giroud in attack.

Chelsea, resplendent in our new Nike home shirts, kicked off defending the end where our supporters were housed, high up in the Toon sky. Indeed, defending was the order of the day for much of the first half.

Andreas Christensen, retained in central defence with Gary Cahill to his left, made a trio of important headed clearances. Behind him Courtois was called into action twice before the 10-minute mark, saving well, if expectedly, as Shelvey and Diame tried their luck from range.

Our keeper’s save to stop an own goal off N’Golo Kante’s stretching leg was more impressive as he had much less time to react. He quickly hooked the rebound away before Gayle could tap in. Diame then shot wide from 25 yards with Courtois at full stretch.

But there was nothing the Belgian could do to stop Newcastle taking the lead midway through the first half. A clever cross from Matt Ritchie towards the far post was flicked over Courtois by Jacob Murphy. The keeper recovered brilliantly to claw the ball out before it crossed the line, but only as far as Gayle who nodded into the unguarded net.

Shelvey thrashed a very presentable chance high and wide barely 30 second after the restart with the Blues still rattled by conceding. We just hadn’t got going, and Courtois had to parry excellently from Gayle to stop the Geordies doubling their lead before the half-hour.

For a moment it looked like a diagonal Cesar Azpilicueta pass was going to release Barkley, but a black-and-white shirt recovered to quell the threat. That pair looked our most threatening during a first half that contained no Chelsea attempts on goal. Newcastle had 11, the last one struck not far wide by Perez in time added on.

Shortly after the restart, the goalscorer Gayle was replaced by Joselu. Chelsea meanwhile switched to a 3-4-3 formation, from the 3-5-2 deployed before the break, and in the first five minutes things improved as we exploited wide areas more effectively and kept the ball better.

Our first attempt of the afternoon nearly brought with it a goal. Barkley crossed from the right and Giroud improvised to impressively flick goalwards from range, but much to his and our frustration, Dubravka backtracked and got the faintest touch to tip it over. Barkley then glided into the box but this time the keeper cut out his low cross.

So it was something of a sucker-punch when Newcastle went 2-0 up on the hour with their first attack of the half. Bakayoko cleared only as far as Shelvey on the edge of the box, and his low drive was cleverly touched in by Perez, a long-time thorn in the Blues backline.

From a Newcastle corner soon after, we broke and so nearly halved the deficit. Barkley led the charge and it was he who had the final effort after exchanging passes with Hazard, but Dubravka showed why he has been so hard to beat since coming into the Newcastle team, saving low with his feet.

And then just like that, it was 3-0. Shelvey’s deep free-kick was volleyed back across goal by an unmarked Florian Lejeune, and again Perez was in the right place to convert.

In response, Moses shot wide off balance after more good work from Barkley, and then Giroud bounced an effort into the ground and over from the Nigerian’s cross.

Conte used up his allocation of substitutions in five second-half minutes to breathe some more attacking life into our play, and though we enjoyed the share of possession in the closing stages, it did not translate into clear chances as proceedings petered out in the Tyneside sunshine.


- Match stats:

Chelsea (3-5-2): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill (c); Moses, Barkley (Willian 77), Kante, Bakayoko, Emerson; Hazard (Pedro 82), Giroud (Morata 76).
Unused subs Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Fabregas.
Booked Moses 62

Newcastle (4-4-2): Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles (c), Lejeune, Dummett; Ritchie (Hayden 72), Shelvey, Diame (Haidara 87), Murphy; Perez, Gayle (Joselu 48).
Unused subs Darlow, Manquillo, Merino, Gamez.
Scorers Gayle 23, Perez 59, 63

Referee Martin Atkinson
Crowd 52,294

- Match report by chelseafc.com

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