Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United: Premier League – as it happened

Pedro and Willian scored fine goals as Chelsea tightened their grip on fourth place.

Rafa Benitez talks. “The team worked so hard, you could see every player fighting to the end. But we were playing a very good team, and Willian was great. The reaction of the team to falling behind was good. We made a couple of big mistakes but we defended well, and played on the counter-attack. On another day we could have got something. We know that we have difficult games. When you play the top teams in two or three games in a row, maybe you won’t get the points you want. But we have to be strong enough to get the points we need.”

Maurizio Sarri speaks. “I was very happy with the performance against Tottenham. But today I am happy with the result, but not the performance. It was not so good, especially from between 1-0 and 1-1. We could have done better, but today it was really important to win points. We slept for 25 minutes and let them back in the match. Maybe we thought after our goal it is very easy. But it wasn’t! Willian is very important for us. He has to stay with us. A seven-point gap over Arsenal is very useful, but we have to play a lot of matches.”

Ed Aarons was at Stamford Bridge tonight. Here’s his report!

Chelsea’s goalscorers Willian and Pedro are sent out for a post-match chat. It’s the usual thing, great to earn three points, happy for the fans, onto the next game, etc. But there’s one charming moment when BT Sport quiz Willian about his future. At which point, footballers normally play it with a straight bat. But Willian smiles broadly and cheekily. “My future? My future is here with Chelsea! I don’t know what you are talking about.” So some good news there for Chelsea fans.

Chelsea take a good grip of fourth place. They move six points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, and nine ahead of sixth-placed Manchester United, the latter with a game in hand and a chance to close that gap tomorrow. They’re only a point behind third-placed Tottenham Hotspur. It’s Arsenal next weekend!

Newcastle meanwhile remain in the bottom three. However with Cardiff City up next at St James’ Park, they’ll be hopeful of addressing that situation positively, and in short order. Not least because they play Manchester City and Tottenham afterwards.

FULL TIME: Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United

Longstaff bursts into the Chelsea box down the right. He shoots for the top right. The ball takes a clip off Luiz, and it’s a corner to Newcastle. They load the box, but Ritchie and Atsu play it short, wasting the chance to put some late, late pressure on the hosts. Atsu eventually hoicks the ball over everyone’s head, and that’s that! Rafa wears a look of incredulity at what he’s just seen.

90 min +3: Chelsea knock it about, letting the clock do its thing.

90 min +2: Kante slips a pass wide right for Azpilicueta. He’s got men in the middle, but can’t find any of them with his cross. He’s unable to get the ball past first man Lascelles.

90 min +1: Willian busts a gut to earn a corner down the left. He then wastes it, with a little help from Hudson-Odoi, as the pair play it short and achieve nothing.

90 min: There will be four added minutes.

89 min: Longstaff looks to send Ritchie away down the left with another impressive crossfield ball. But it’s delivered just an inch or two too far upfield.

87 min: Hazard is replaced by Giroud. “In response to Benjamin Park, we should be just fine for top four without buying a striker in January,” opines Ciaran Crowther. “Hazard is auditioning for Real, remember, so his goals will probably be enough for top four before we say our goodbyes to him in the summer. Man United might challenge us if the Solskjaer feel-good effect puts them on a winning streak. Thinking long-term, a striker is urgently needed. Major investment needed during the summer in order to challenge for the title next season.”

86 min: Manquillo curls into the Chelsea box from a deep position on the right. Rondon rises above Azpilicueta at the far post, but his header flies wide left. A real chance spurned. Should he have gone back across Kepa towards the right-hand side of goal?

85 min: Jorginho tries to spring Hudson-Odoi clear down the right with a fizzing diagonal pass. But the young man goes too early, and the flag goes up for offside.

84 min: The Chelsea crowd are nervous all right, as their team defend this slim lead. Hazard plays a flick that doesn’t come off in the midfield, and the groans nearly take the roof off the stadium.

82 min: A double switch by Newcastle, as Perez and Yedlin are replaced by Murphy and Manquillo.

80 min: Hudson-Odoi replaces Pedro. The young Bayern Munich target is immediately serenaded with “We want you to stay” by the home support.

79 min: A period of possession for Newcastle now. Some patient passing. Longstaff strokes a lovely right-to-left ball to release Ritchie on the left. Ritchie’s cross is deflected out for a corner. The set piece is wasted, but there’s a sign that Newcastle are far from out of this match. A few nerves around Stamford Bridge.

77 min: Luiz is happily back up and about. A sore one, nothing more.

75 min: Rondon chests down a long ball, then lays off to Perez, who attempts to dribble his way into the Chelsea box. Luiz puts a stop to his gallop. Perez slips and catches Luiz as he falls, clattering into the defender’s standing leg. A free kick for Chelsea, and some necessary treatment to Luiz’s knee, which took a good old whack there.

73 min: Luiz sends the free kick towards the top left ... but it’s swerving all over the shop, and ends up missing the target by a big margin, high and to the left.

72 min: Chelsea put a stop to that with a period of sterile domination. A lot of pretty passing in triangles. They don’t look to be going anywhere, so Newcastle will be annoyed to see Perez lose his patience and needlessly bowl Alonso to the ground, 30 yards out. A chance for Luiz or Willian to score a trademark set-piece screamer?

70 min: Two-pass moves come at a premium right now. All very scrappy.

68 min: Lascelles is back on. Chelsea ping it around in the patient fashion, but go absolutely nowhere. A rare lull with quarter of the match remaining.

67 min: Lascelles injured himself while ensuring that Willian effort went out for a corner, running out of pitch and clattering into the advertising hoardings. He’s gashed his knee badly. He looks like he wants to continue, but he’s currently off the pitch getting some treatment.

65 min: The Luiz-Willian combination nearly undoes Newcastle again. Luiz rakes a long pass down the left that releases his team-mate. Willian draws Dubravka but this time the keeper gets a touch to ensure the ball goes wide left of the goal. Nothing comes of the corner.

63 min: Barkley comes on for Kovacic.

62 min: Jorginho is booked for a cynical tug on Rondon.

61 min: Perez and Rondon one-two their way into the Chelsea box. As Perez steps into the area, Rudiger gently tugs his wrist. Perez goes down, and he wants a penalty. He’s not getting it. Newcastle supporters who recall the Mo Salah incident on Boxing Day are permitted to raise their eyebrows. But it would have been a very soft penalty.

60 min: Hazard goes scampering down the inside-right channel. It’s a determined burst, but he’s robbed by Atsu, who sticks in a toe from behind. It’s a fine tackle. Hazard goes over, and the Chelsea fans explode in collective apoplexy. But the referee waves play on, and he’s called it right.

59 min: Do Newcastle have a second equaliser in them? That goal’s understandably deflated them; they were giving as good as they were getting beforehand. Chelsea by contrast are renewed. There appears to be an extra bounce in Hazard’s step, which doesn’t augur well for the Toon.

GOAL! Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United (Willian 57)

What was that we were saying about a lack of quality in this game? Scrub that! No more! Hazard slips a pass down the left for Willian, who enters the box, shifts the ball onto his right foot, and curls a delicious shot across Dubravka and into the top right! The keeper had no chance! That was a lovely goal!

No chance for Martin Dubravka.
No chance for Martin Dubravka. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

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56 min: Alonso zips down the left wing and pulls one back for Pedro, on the penalty spot. Pedro takes a first-time swipe, but there’s no power in the shot and it’s straight at Dubravka.

55 min: ... some head tennis. Lascelles tugs Rudiger, but gets away with it. Dubravka flaps. Newcastle can’t clear, but eventually the flag goes up for offside. There hasn’t been too much quality play in this match, but it’s been wonderfully entertaining ... and good luck predicting the outcome.

54 min: Kante’s not having it, though. He snaps into a challenge to strip Hayden of possession, and drives towards the Newcastle box. He slips a pass left for Willian, who enters the area and sees a low shot turned into the side netting. From the corner ...

53 min: Jorginho, in space and with time 30 yards out, sprays a pass into the stand on the left. The home crowd aren’t happy. Chelsea suddenly look a team with the weight of the world on their shoulders.

52 min: Luiz nearly splits Newcastle’s defence with a sliderule pass down the middle. Hazard can’t quite get onto the ball; Lejeune hoicks it away from danger.

51 min: Chelsea don’t look totally at the races. Luiz miskicks and nearly lets Rondon scamper clear. Hazard miscontrols. Kante lets a simple ball run under his boot. The crowd are vocal in their frustration.

49 min: Ritchie makes good down the left. His cross is eyebrowed away from goal at the near post by Atsu, who might have done well to leave the header to Rondon, standing behind him.

48 min: After making a superb save to keep Newcastle level, Dubravka looks to pluck the corner from the sky. He then drops it, and Ritchie is forced to hook away from Luiz in an emergency. Chelsea so close to regaining their lead!

47 min: A loose pass by Lascelles, 30 yards from goal, allows Kovacic to burst towards the Newcastle box. He slips the ball wide to Pedro, who is one on one with Dubravka. Pedro creams one towards the bottom left, but the keeper tips it around the post!

And we’re off again! Newcastle get the ball rolling for the second half. No changes. “Chelsea NEED a striker,” hollers Benjamin Park. “Willian plays wide, Hazard plays wide, and guess where Pedro plays. When the ball is on the wings, there’s nobody to put a cross into. Even the through balls go through the wings. Not sure if we can keep top four unless something changes ASAP.”

Half-time reading. Rafa is far from the only Premier League manager with problems. Here’s our man Andy Hunter on under-pressure Everton boss Marco Silva.

HALF TIME: Chelsea 1-1 Newcastle United

Chelsea are booed off by a section of their own support, which is a bit harsh. They were the better team for most of that first half. But Newcastle fought their way back into it, and after the equaliser looked very lively indeed. This could be a very interesting second half, so don’t be going out for your Saturday night quite yet!

45 min: Atsu and Rudiger combine at speed down the right. Eventually Yedlin is sent scampering away on the overlap, but he can’t find a team-mate in the area. Newcastle are suddenly a free-flowing confident collective! Chelsea need the half-time whistle desperately. They’ve got two added minutes to survive.

43 min: And now Rondon, pressing hard, bothers last man Rudiger, but can’t nick the ball off the defender. Chelsea work the ball away from danger.

42 min: This is suddenly a brilliantly entertaining match. Yedlin works his way down the right and hooks high into the Chelsea box. Ritchie meets the dropping ball with a volley from 12 yards ... but screws it miles wide right. Full marks for ambition, if not execution.

41 min: And Chelsea should have regained the lead within seconds! Kovacic wedges a pass down the inside left, releasing Willian into acres, the Newcastle defence totally asleep. He’s got to score, having drawn Dubravka off his line. But he pulls a shot wide left from close range. On the touchline, Rafa has reached the stage of teeth-baring anger.

GOAL! Chelsea 1-1 Newcastle United (Clark 40)

Clark, on the penalty spot, rises between Rudiger and Luiz and plants a stunning downward header into the bottom left. Kepa had no chance! That was perfectly placed. And it had been coming, Newcastle working their way slowly back into the game after a sluggish start.

Newcastle United’s Ciaran Clark celebrates scoring their first goal.
Newcastle United’s Ciaran Clark celebrates scoring their first goal. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters

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39 min: ... Luiz is forced to head behind in a panic with plenty of black and white shirts lurking. And from the second corner ...

38 min: Another corner for Chelsea on the left; another non-event. Newcastle go straight up the other end, Atsu winning one off Pedro on the left. From which ...

37 min: Rondon strips Jorginho of the ball, as the Chelsea midfielder faffs about in the midfield. Rondon races away, with Chelsea light at the back. But the play’s pulled back for the lightest of tugs. Jorginho a little bit lucky there; there are plenty of referees who would have waved play on.

35 min: Newcastle should be level. Rondon beats Luiz to a long ball, and sends Perez clear down the inside-right channel. He’s only got Kepa to beat, but slices his shot wide right. That’s poor, though perhaps good karma, because replays suggest Perez might have been just offside. So in that sense, fair’s fair. The flag didn’t go up, though.

Rondon gets the better of Luiz.
Rondon gets the better of Luiz. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

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34 min: Kante clips Ritchie out on the left. A chance to load the box. The free kick’s tapped to Atsu, who can’t beat the first man. On the bench, steam continues to pour from Rafa’s lugs.

33 min: Chelsea attempt to reestablish their command by stroking the ball around the midfield awhile. Then Pedro has a dig from distance, but his shot, from the best part of 30 yards, bobbles harmlessly through to Dubravka.

31 min: Lascelles replays that crossfield ball to Yedlin. It’s well worth watching again. Once more, Yedlin isn’t able to engineer enough space on the wing to cross, but Newcastle are at least slowly working their way back into this match.

29 min: Rondon takes down a long ball, then one-twos with Perez. It’s direct and effective, but when Rondon takes a stride into the box, he slashes wildly at the ball and sends it sailing miles to the left of goal. Still, that’s much better from Newcastle.

Rondon holds off Marcos Alonso.
Rondon holds off Marcos Alonso. Photograph: Jed Leicester/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

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28 min: Some space and time for Pedro out on the left. He nearly releases Kovacic into the area with a cute diagonal pass, but it’s a bit overcooked and the ball flies through to Dubravka.

27 min: But Chelsea don’t clear their lines particularly convincingly, and Newcastle come again. A poor Azpilicueta header allows Lejeune a volley, just to the left of the D. It’s a fine hit, but straight at Kepa, who gathers without drama.

26 min: Suddenly Newcastle show a little in attack, Hayden sending Perez scampering down the right. He’s got Rondon in the middle, but his cross is blocked out by Luiz. The resulting corner is a non-event.

25 min: Willian takes, and scoops a ball to the far post. Luiz rushes in and crashes a header goalwards; it’s deflected over the bar by Lascelles. Chelsea don’t get the corner, though.

Willian on the ball.
Willian on the ball. Photograph: Stephen Wright/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

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24 min: Pedro slips a pass down the inside-right channel for Azpilicueta, who is in the process of rounding Ritchie at high speed when he’s nicked and brought down. A booking for Ritchie, and a free kick just to the right of the Newcastle box.

22 min: But it goes nowhere. Yedlin, deep on the right, sprays one towards Atsu on the left. Atsu goes too soon, and is caught offside. Atsu had the full picture there, he had no need to drift offside.

21 min: A period of sweet possession for Newcastle, their first of the match. Time for everyone to get a touch and hopefully rebuild a little confidence.

19 min: Azpilicueta rakes a long ball down the right for Kante, who can’t quite circumnavigate Clarke. Had Kante got there a split second earlier, he was through on goal. Newcastle need to hang on here.

17 min: Kovacic nearly skins Lejeune down the left, but just as it looks as though he’ll sprint free into the Newcastle box, the defender sticks out a leg. Corner. This one doesn’t clear the first man.

16 min: Chelsea continue to stroke it around in a very dominant fashion.

14 min: Hazard wins a corner down the left, though it doesn’t come to much, Rudiger shoving Dubravka in the back. Free kick, and the pressure’s off Newcastle. Hats off to Sarri, by the way, who made it clear that Pedro was his solution to Chelsea’s recent goalscoring troubles. It didn’t take Pedro long to solve the puzzle.

13 min: Chelsea are pinging it around in a very pleasing style right now. Luiz passing long, Hazard scuttling around with menace, Jorginho keeping it all ticking.

11 min: Lascelles sends a glorious left-to-right crossfield ball towards Yedlin, who nearly romps into acres on the left. But he’s stopped in his tracks by Alonso. On the touchline, Benitez is currently producing a volume of smoke Sarri can only dream of, though it’s all coming out of his ears. He wasn’t happy with Clark or Ritchie, who were both caught napping by that long Luiz pass for the goal.

GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle United (Pedro 9)

Well they’ll have to do more than defend now. Luiz, to the left of the centre circle in his own half, rakes a lovely long pass towards Pedro, who gets a yard on Clark down the inside-right channel. He takes the ball down, lets Dubravka come off his line, and lifts a precise finish over the keeper and into the net! That’s a really pretty route-one goal.

Pedro scores the opener.
Pedro scores the opener. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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8 min: Rondon chases down Luiz, who was faffing around out on the Chelsea left. That forces Luiz to roll back to Kepa. Rudiger is then hassled by Atsu on the other flank, briefly causing panic. A sign that Newcastle aren’t just here to defend?

6 min: Not a whole lot going on yet. Chelsea are bossing possession, but Newcastle seem quite happy to sit back, and the hosts haven’t managed to move a packed defence around to any great effect. Early days of course.

4 min: Kante glides in from the right and slips the ball to Hazard, who very nearly spins past Lascelles into an awful lot of space. But the Newcastle defender manages to stick to his man and Hazard eventually loses control.

2 min: The travelling Toon support make their feelings for Mike Ashley known, via the medium of song ‘n’ swearies. You don’t need me to explain any further.

1 min: It’s kind of a false start, as Willian almost immediately goes down under not much pressure from Lejeune. Has he twisted an ankle in an awkward fall? He limps around gingerly but it looks as though he’s good to go.

And we’re off! A wonderful post-Saturday-afternoon-in-public-bar atmosphere in Stamford Bridge. The hosts get the party started.

The teams are out! Chelsea are in their famous blue, while Newcastle wear their classic black and white. A quick blast of The Liquidator, and we’ll be off in a minute!

Rafa talks! But only in a pre-recorded segment, where he straight bats all questions about the transfer window and his own contract. Instead he preaches unity with a righteous zeal. In these troubled times, he’d make a great prime minister, president, army general or cult leader. Oil on troubled waters.

Rafa: the look of leadership.
Rafa: the look of leadership. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA

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Maurizio Sarri speaks! “We know very well the situation. We have some problems. We are playing well, I think, but we are having a problem to score in this moment. We are trying to solve it. It’s not easy. But we have to do it. Pedro is very important for us, he is good in the spaces. We are trying to solve a problem, and we are trying to do so with Pedro.”

So this afternoon’s 3pm kick-offs haven’t done Newcastle United any favours. Burnley beat Fulham 2-1 at Turf Moor. Southampton won 2-1 at Leicester City. And Cardiff City drew 0-0 with Huddersfield Town. All of that means Newcastle plummet into the bottom three ahead of this match. They’re in 18th place with the same number of points, one adrift of Cardiff and Saints, three behind Burnley. Newcastle are in a relegation battle all right.

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Liverpool 22 40 57
2 Man City 21 39 50
3 Tottenham Hotspur 21 25 48
4 Chelsea 21 22 44
5 Arsenal 22 14 41
6 Man Utd 21 11 38
7 Watford 22 0 32
8 Leicester 22 1 31
9 West Ham 22 -2 31
10 Wolverhampton 21 -2 29
11 Everton 21 0 27
12 AFC Bournemouth 21 -9 27
13 Brighton 22 -6 26
14 Crystal Palace 22 -8 22
15 Burnley 22 -20 21
16 Southampton 22 -16 19
17 Cardiff 22 -22 19
18 Newcastle 21 -14 18
19 Fulham 22 -29 14
20 Huddersfield 22 -24 11

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A peek behind the scenes. Shirts, towels, shinpads, programmes and flip-flops in the home dressing room. Some tasteful wood panelling offset by benching covered in towelling. Or is it a moleskin finish? Either way, not 100 percent sure that’s practical.

Jorginho’s gear.
Jorginho’s gear. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea make two changes to the side named for their last Premier League game, the goalless draw here with Southampton. Mateo Kovacic and Pedro take the places of Ross Barkley and Alvaro Morata.

Newcastle make three changes to the teamsheet handed in for the home defeat to Manchester United. Fabian Schar, Mohamed Diame and Paul Dummett make way for Florian Lejeune, Ciaran Clark and the 21-year-old midfielder Sean Longstaff, who makes his first League start for the Magpies.

The teams

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic, Pedro, Hazard, Willian.
Subs: Barkley, Caballero, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Christensen, Emerson Palmieri, Ampadu.

Newcastle United: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lejeune, Lascelles, Clark, Ritchie, Perez, Longstaff, Hayden, Atsu, Rondon.
Subs: Schar, Murphy, Fernandez, Manquillo, Joselu, Sterry, Woodman.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).

Preamble

Chelsea’s last couple of Premier League home games haven’t gone exactly to plan: a 0-0 draw with Southampton and a 0-1 loss to Leicester. So they’ll welcome Newcastle United to Stamford Bridge this evening with open arms. Here’s how this particular fixture has panned out recently: 3-0, 3-1, 5-1, 2-0, 3-0, 2-0.

The arrival of the struggling Magpies will be a sight for sore eyes. Especially as Rafa Benitez’s men have only won one of their last nine matches. Chelsea might not be firing on all cylinders at present, but they were the better side against Spurs midweek in the first leg of their League Cup semi, despite the result, and will be hopeful their overall performance at Wembley is a promise of better things to come.

But while Newcastle may be labouring, that doesn’t mean they’re super-easy to pick off. They’ve only lost three of their ten matches on the road this season. They’ve won at Huddersfield and Burnley. On another day, with a bit more luck, they could have got something at Manchester City and Manchester United. Rafa knows how to set up his side in Resolute Mode all right. So nothing’s certain.

Chelsea are desperate for the win that’ll keep them on course for a top-four finish. Newcastle are desperate for the points that’ll keep their heads above water. It’s set up nicely ... and it’s on!

Kick off: 5.30pm GMT.