Our unbeaten run is over, but it took two shocking decisions from VAR and a goal from a man who should’ve been sent off to seal the win for Chelsea.
Kai Havertz got away with a blatant first half elbow on Dan Burn – a challenge that left the big man’s temple in a state – and we were then denied a stone wall penalty in the second 45, as Trevoh Chalobah had a chunk of Jacob Murphy’s shirt.
A bitter pill to swallow, as our run should’ve extended to 10 games without defeat, but it was another day where you feel proud to be a Newcastle United fan – even if Havertz’s 89th minute winner was incredibly tough to take.
We pressed superbly, created more chances than the European Champions, were competitive all over the pitch and could’ve easily come away with a win – never mind a draw – had officials done their jobs.
Eddie Howe moved to a back five for this one and made FOUR changes, seeing Jamaal Lascelles, Javier Manquillo, Sean Longstaff and Miguel Almiron replace Jonjo Shelvey, Emil Krafth, Joe Willock and Ryan Fraser.
Allan Saint-Maximin was back on the bench after overcoming illness, but there was no Joelinton (groin), Jonjo Shelvey or Joe Willock in the squad.
STARTING 11: Dubravka – Schar, Lascelles, Burn – Manquillo, Guimaraes, S Longstaff, Targett – Almiron, Wood, Murphy.
SUBS: Darlow, Dummett, Saint-Maximin, Ritchie, Krafth, Fraser, Gillespie, Gayle, De Bolle.
Chelsea started with a real purpose about their play. They were pressing with real intensity, moving the ball quickly and had their first chance from an early corner which Ruidiger fortunately miscued.
The switch from three to just two in midfield saw the hosts outnumber us in the middle of the park, with Sean Longstaff struggling to keep pace with the likes of Kante or Mount.
Today was a big chance for Almiron and his first start in 2022 under Howe, however his lack of composure in the final third was also noticeable in the early stages, with this standing out even more given how good Ryan Fraser has been recently.
However, we remained competitive and were pressing well from the front, showing the sort of effort and commitment to make up for our lack of quality in possession as Wood, Longstaff and Guimaraes also saw simple passes go astray.
The high press was causing Chelsea problems and they were struggling to play out. Shortly after Murphy saw an audacious attempt fly high and wide, Guimaraes stepped in as the Blues looked to go short and won a free kick. Targett’s delivery was a dangerous one and Schar’s cut-back from the far post almost found Lascelles, only for Mendy to intervene.
Despite just 27% of the ball over the opening half an hour, it was nice to see us set up as more of a 3-4-3, with wing-backs level with our midfield and actively involved in the press – not a flat back five who wanted to camp in front of Dubravka’s goal like we saw under Steve Bruce.
On the 35 minute mark, Manquillo did well to force a corner. Chelsea cleared but it soon came out to Targett, who took a sublime touch and whipped in an even better ball that big Dan Burn very nearly glanced in!
VAR then had a decision to make five minutes later when Kai Havertz planted an elbow on Dan Burn. He may have been looking at the ball, but he knew what he was doing. It was reckless at best and should’ve resulted in a red card for the German; who got an earful from the giant Geordie soon after!
You know it’s a high elbow when it smashes a 6ft 7′ bloke right in the temple. Poor from VAR and a potentially costly decision given we were causing their 11 men problems, never mind 10!
More decent work from Manquillo won us a free kick down the right in first-half injury time. Targett’s delivery was on the money once again, Rudiger cleared and Almiron smashed a superb volley back at goal. His powerful effort was parried clear by Mendy and Schar smashed the rebound over the bar.
Half-time, Chelsea 0-0 Newcastle and an enjoyable 45 minutes of football. We had less of the ball, but we matched them and more all over the park, defended with minimal fuss, pressed brilliantly and forced Mendy into a few saves while Dubravka remained a spectator.
We started the second half on the front foot and, after almost forcing a corner, Bruno saw an effort just go wide of Mendy’s far post.
Murphy was booked for a daft pull back a few minutes later but the resulting Chelsea free kick came to nothing as Mount’s ball went straight out for a goal kick to give Dubravka a rare touch of the ball!
Another huge moment was then missed by VAR moments later. Ignoring Havert’z elbow on Burn was bad enough in the first half, but they then decided that it was fine for Chalobah to have a chunk of Murphy’s shirt before the Chelsea defender nipped in to force a corner.
It was a stone wall penalty and clear for all to see….just not VAR.
Moving on, it looked like Werner was about to win Chelsea a penalty of their own as he went clear through on goal only to be taken down by Dubravka. However, the offside flag saved us and it remained 0-0.
Tuchel made two changes, bringing on Lukaku and Kovavic for Werner and Mount, with Howe soon making a switch of his own as Almiron made way for Allan Saint-Maximin!
Chelsea had 71% of the ball, so they were continuing to dominate in that respect, but Dubravka still hadn’t made a single save and we’d had more touches in the opposition box than the hosts.
The biggest chance of the game then arrived and guess who it fell for? That man Havertz.
His movement left Lascelles for dead and he looked set to score, only for his header to go straight at Dubravka; who’d finally made his first save of the match after 76 minutes.
A let off for NUFC, who responded well as Longstaff had a well hit strike fly just over after Saint-Maximin cut inside and set up the midfielder to let rip.
Bruno Guimaraes then went into the book for a cynical trip on Kovacic, who burst past Longstaff with ease before our £35m Brazilian took one for the team.
Another high ball was flung into the box and once again it was met brilliantly by a man in black and white, with Schar and Burn reading the play superbly and Lascelles also playing his part on his return to the side.
The moment we all feared then arrived with two minutes to play. Jorginho dinked a ball in behind Dan Burn and Kai Havertz fired past Dubravka. 1-0 Chelsea and a goal from a player who shouldn’t have even been on the pitch.
We huffed and puffed in what remained but it wasn’t to be. A superb effort and a display that was deserving of at least a draw, only for VAR to let us down not once but TWICE.
Our unbeaten run has come to an end, but it says a lot when it’s taken a horror show from the referee and a goal from someone who should’ve been off to beat us.
Next up, a trip to Everton – who lost AGAIN today – next Thursday night.