Newcastle test depleted champions

Newcastle United 1 - Chelsea 1
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The Independent Football

Like a master painter applying the final touch to a piece of art, Chelsea hoped to sign their name on the Premiership season with a flourish here. For once, things did not go to plan.

Like a master painter applying the final touch to a piece of art, Chelsea hoped to sign their name on the Premiership season with a flourish here. For once, things did not go to plan.

Nevertheless, as far as their manager, Jose Mourinho, is concerned, this has been an excellent first draft of his Stamford Bridge project. For now, it remains a work in progress, with new arrivals expected in the summer as the final pieces are put together for a squad hoping to dominate Europe as well as England "You can always improve," said Mourinho, who has already suggested he will sign three new players when the transfer window reopens. "We can improve on certain aspects of our game, but it is almost impossible to improve on 95 points and 29 wins."

With the blue ribbons already tied on the Premiership Trophy and the Carling Cup, Chelsea had nothing to play for at St James' Park and rested several big names.

Newcastle did have something to play for, the point needed to ensure this would not go down as their worst Premiership campaign. They got it, their tally of 44 equalling the worst, under Kenny Dalglish, in 1998. But wins for Fulham and Birmingham condemned them to their lowest finish, 14th.

Yet, Newcastle actually held their own for much of this contest and, although they were grateful to an excellent reaction save from Shay Given to keep out Jiri Jarosik late on, probably shaded things overall.

They went ahead when Titus Bramble poked Alan Shearer's near-post header goalwards and Chelsea full-back Geremi helped it in. A minute later, though, Chelsea were level. Eidur Gudjohnsen anticipated Jarosik's flick-on, Celestine Babayaro went to sleep and then, realising his mistake, put enough of his arms around the striker to give him the excuse to tumble over. Frank Lampard converted the penalty.

Newcastle huffed and puffed after the break, but rarely looked like blowing Chelsea's house down. Patrick Kluivert - in his last game for the club - went closest to a winner, but his header was well saved by Carlo Cudicini.

Honours even on the day, but a world apart over the course of the season.

Goals: Geremi og (33) 1-0; Lampard (34) 1-1.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Given; Carr (Taylor, 46), Boumsong, Bramble, Babayaro; Milner, Jenas, Ambrose, N'Zogbia; Kluivert (Chopra, 75), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), O'Brien, Robert.

Chelsea (4-5-1): Cudiciini; Johnson, Carvalho, Huth, Geremi; Jarosik (Watt, 90), Tiago, Makelele, Lampard, Cole (Morais, 89); Gudjohnsen (Oliveira, 84). Substitutes not used: Cech (gk), Grant.

Booked: Newcastle Babayaro, N'Zogbia; Chelsea Tiago, Carvalho, Geremi.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

Man of the match: Bramble.

Attendance: 52,326.

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