No one does withering quite like Jose Mourinho. Asked yesterday is he had erred in his team selection, following a defeat he had ‘smelled coming’ against Newcastle, he did not waste a punch. “I made 11 mistakes,” he said. “I should pick the other 11 and not this 11. It is the feeling I have when my team plays so bad. Of course I’m exaggerating. We had some guys with some normal good performances, but the feeling is that I made 11 wrong choices.”
This has been an attack coming. Chelsea have won only one Premier League game away from Stamford Bridge this season. It was not even an inference from Mourinho. It was not even subtle. The team he inherited are no longer challengers for the Championship. The team he inherited in the summer has gone soft.
“Of course I’m worried,” he added. “I read the previous years and it happened the same. They were successful in cup competitions, not in the Premier League. They finished 20 points behind and 15 points behind. They qualified for the Champions’ League because they won it.
“Last year, in December, they were not in the race for the title because they were already 10 points behind. This season we have played five games away from home but we have one victory and two defeats. Of course it concerns me.
“We had lots of space to play where you can hurt the opponent and we were touching the ball side to side, slow, receive the ball and no sharpness to attack spaces and to try and be aggressive. We gave them 45 minutes of a friendly. I have to understand why.”
The opening 45 minutes yesterday were for Chelsea to win. Newcastle had the wounds of defeat to Sunderland and an extra-time Captial One Cup defeat to Manchester City. They were lightweight for that period. It looked men against boys but Chelsea were polite and without purpose. That stung Mourinho.
“I’m in this game for many years,” he said. “I was smelling what happened because the game was quite easy to play in the first half. We had lots of space but we were not sharp or intense with the ball. We defended quite well. Our back four was a simple easy job. We were not fast and intense and aggressive with the ball. We let the game go, waiting for a chance to score a goal or to concede a goal and lose it. That is exactly what I was talking about.
“I don’t need reminders. I don’t need to use a match to be aware of that. It is something I know. I pass it to my players every game. I know exactly how it is. It is why I was smelling it could go in this direction. The title race is there for everyone, it is open for everybody. I didn’t like my team today.”
He did not like how they could not handle Newcastle’s raw aggression after the break, when the game changed dramatically. John Terry, who had struck the crossbar in the first half, was rattled enough to be booked for dissent in the 77th minute.
By then his side trailed. Alan Pardew whispered into the ear of Yohan Cabaye as he readied to take a 69th minute free-kick to use pace and bend. Cabaye did. It was a brilliant ball and Yoan Gouffran headed past Peter Cech. The game’s dynamics had changed. A quiet crowd had life and Mourinho knew an opportunity for an easy afternoon had passed. Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy excelled for the home side.
In the 89th minute, Gabriel Obertan and Vurnon Anita set up Loïc Rémy and he struck a fine finish past Cech. By then Krul had saved well from William and Debuchy had blocked the rebound from Samuel Eto’o. They were heroic bits of defending. There was another at the death from Mike Williamson. This is the spirit of an English team that Mourinho had feared. It was enough for a stirring victory.
“Chelsea keep the ball and if you go chasing you’re in for a difficult afternoon,” said Pardew. “I don’t think we were very good when we won it back in the first half but we had a bit more energy in the second half to put their back four under pressure.
“Because we exerted so much energy in midweek we decided to be very cautious at the start. We perhaps let them have too much possession. We knew we could exert more pressure and the crowd would get more involved. Yohan executed the free kick on the money. I’m not taking any credit for that. Gouf connected brilliantly. The crowd had just got involved before that. It was the perfect time to score. I felt confident we could win after that. We’ve got a great spirit in the group. I think we’ve played well. We’ve had moments when we’ve not been as great. We’re together. This win is for Mike Ashley and all Newcastle fans. We are all Newcastle fans.”
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon; Sissoko, Cabaye, Tiote (Anita, 53), Gouffran (Obertan, 85); Rémy, Ameobi (Cissé, 62).
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard (Schü–rrle, 70); Oscar, Mata (Willian, 62), Hazard; Torres (Eto’o, 62).
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Sissoko (Newcastle)
Match rating: 7/10