Chelsea fall to a Cisse classic double – and battle fatigue


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The Independent Online

If Chelsea are to make it into a 10th successive Champions League campaign next season, the hard reality after last night's home defeat is that they may well now have to go to Munich on 19 May and win the damned thing against Bayern Munich.

They are now sixth, four points adrift of Spurs and Newcastle in fourth place and five behind Arsenal in third. As it stands, the Europa League, that unloved second competition, is where Chelsea are heading unless they can win their first European Cup.

For Newcastle, it was another night of jaw-dropping excellence from Papiss Cisse. The man who came from nowhere – well, from Freiburg – scored an exceptional first, but it was his second in injury-time at the end of the game that will be rated among the best scored this season.

It was hit with the outside of his right foot from 25 yards out on the left side and it beat Petr Cech into the top left-hand corner of his goal. It was the Senegal striker's 13th goal in 12 games for the club he joined in January.

For a heartbeat, there was disbelief as the ball went in ... and then sheer joy among Alan Pardew and his staff. They had faced 10 minutes of injury-time following a bad injury to Cheick Tioté that had required lengthy medical treatment on the pitch but when Cissé scored, any hope of a comeback by Chelsea was exhausted.

The prize of Europe also raises the stakes in Sunday's game at St James' Park against Manchester City. There is so much to play for, for both teams.

The bench named by Roberto Di Matteo last night said a great deal about Chelsea's punishing run of fixtures. On it was Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Juan Mata and Salomon Kalou – all of whom, apart from Drogba, played last Sunday. Between then and Saturday's FA Cup final, they could not be expected to do it all again.

It meant that Di Matteo left his team a little exposed, especially in terms of the attacking threat of Lampard, Mata and Cole, and it showed in the first half. The best early chance Chelsea had came from Fernando Torres, pictured, who worked hard right across the line of the defence. It was his cross from the left, with the outside of his right boot, that Daniel Sturridge scuffed wide.

On 19 minutes Cisse scored, lifting the ball off the deck with his right foot and striking it firmly past Petr Cech with his left. It was a beautifully executed goal, but better was to come.

Chelsea pressed late on, and John Terry had a header cleared off the line by Davide Santon, but just as it seemed Newcastle might crack, Cissé struck again and it was game over.