Crisis averted. Jose Mourinho says he does not hold with the ‘c’ word, but even he must be reconsidering that opinion as Chelsea stared a fourth loss in seven Premier League games in the face. Newcastle, unrecognisable from the shower that lost in the League Cup to Sheffield Wednesday, led through goals from Ayoze Perez and the vivacious Georginio Wijnaldum and with 11 minutes left, Chelsea were flat and, apparently, beaten.
Then substitute Ramires belted in a piledriver and eight minutes later another substitute Willian delivered a free-kick that flew over everyone and past Tim Krul.
So Chelsea snatched a point as they prepare for Mourinho’s return to Porto, but they remain flat in comparison to last season’s title winners. For Newcastle, beaten by Watford here last Saturday, this was much better. Newcastle played more football in the first 10 minutes than they did in the entire 90 here against Sheffield Wednesday three days earlier.
Jack Colback was missing then and the midfielder’s return was central, in different ways, to the home improvement. Colback won a number of tussles with Cesc Fabregas as Newcastle overcame local concerns that this could be a pummelling from the beginning from Chelsea.
Kevin Mbabu, a 20 year-old Swiss right-back who made his debut as a second-half substitute against Wednesday, was given a full debut – at left-back. You could call this a surprise – Mbabu’s name is not among the 29 on the back of the Newcastle programme – but now he found himself faced by Pedro, a player of rather greater status and experience. But Mbabu exceeded all expectation as Newcastle gave as good as they got, which in truth was not much.
Chelsea lacked midfield zip, Eden Hazard was peripheral and on the touchline Mourinho, pining for Diego Costa, was gesturing to Loïc Rémy to be more physical. Rémy had a sniff of a chance on 12 minutes, side-footed wide, and in the 38th minute Fabregas forced a diving save from Krul. But Newcastle were the more dangerous.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, back from suspension, got onto a Wijnaldum cross, then Moussa Sissoko had a decent shot. These moments were followed by efforts from Perez and Daryl Janmaat, both of which were parried by Asmir Begovic.
Mourinho (pictured) will have been noting how his defence was being exposed, but he still will not have anticipated the way Kurt Zouma hesitated in the 42nd minute to allow Perez to score. Seeing a Vurnon Anita cross travel 30 yards, Zouma appeared about to jump and clear it but then stalled. Perez had nipped between Zouma and Branislav Ivanovic. The 22 year-old from Tenerife brought the ball down with his first touch then smacked in a volley off the post with his next.
As a collective, Chelsea looked stunned. When they began the second half on the front foot, but could make no breakthrough, Mourinho summoned Radamel Falcao and Willian from the bench.
However, as they warmed up, Newcastle broke away. Their speed and determination yielded a corner and Perez took it. to supporters’ chagrin, Newcastle are notoriously unproductive at corners but this one found Wijnaldum unmarked. With a flick of the head, the Dutchman’s accurate header slid beyond Begovic.Reuse content