At the end of a breathless game, "Chelsea are back" rang down from way up in the gods where visiting supporters are housed at what used to be called St James' Park. Not yet back to the dominant force of Jose Mourinho's day, of course, or anything like it, but his protégé Andre Villas-Boas was insistent that they are over the worst with this second successive 3-0 League victory. Back too in the Champions' League places by vaulting over Newcastle by an admittedly flattering margin and in controversial circumstances.
Villas-Boas was honest enough to admit that his erratic Brazilian defender David Luiz could easily have walked for bringing down Demba Ba as the forward chased a through ball in only the fourth minute. The referee Mike Dean apparently decided he did not have control of the ball – but the point was that he surely would have done had David Luiz not fouled him.
"I was really angry," Newcastle's manager, Alan Pardew, said. "It was the fourth minute but it doesn't matter when it arrives and I couldn't understand why he stayed on." As it was, his team hit the bar twice, lost two centre-halves to injury and will now have to make changes at last to the defence that has been unchanged all season. The captain, Fabricio Coloccini, lasted only 27 minutes, and Steven Taylor could be out for some time as he has an achilles problem. Despite showing up well against Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs, Newcastle have emerged with only one point, gained in last weekend's defiant performance at Old Trafford when Taylor and Tim Krul in goal were the heroes. Yesterday Krul was outstanding again, and as Pardew said, it must have been "really galling" for him to have been beaten three times.
The young Dutchman was let down, however, by some of the defending in front of him. In a game that was open from start to finish the most wide open spaces of all were down Newcastle's left flank, where Ryan Taylor gave Daniel Sturridge all the room he wanted. That resulted in countless chances, including a penalty in the 13th minute that led to Krul pushing Frank Lampard's kick on to a post for the first of several outstanding saves.
Repeatedly Sturridge bore down on him, cutting in from the right on his favoured left foot, and mostly leaving his manager furious at his profligacy. Only right at the end did Sturridge at last locate the net, as Chelsea ran in two goals in the final few minutes to distort the scoreline.
Overall they had the better of the chances, mainly on the counter-attack, but there was injustice in the air from the moment that David Luiz was shown only a yellow card as Ba went down while chasing a pass by Peter Lovenkrands. The penalty to Chelsea was a correct decision after Yohan Cabaye's unwise tackle on Sturridge but Krul's save from it did not dismay the visitors, Sturridge soon hitting a post and the side-net as well as forcing Krul to thwart him, all in the space of seven minutes.
Not that the home side were overwhelmed. After heading Chelsea into the lead from a cross by the excellent Juan Mata, Didier Drogba, defending a corner, headed just as firmly against his own bar. A different sort of Ba – Demba – hit a post before half-time and after Pardew threw on the Ameobi brothers, Shola struck the bar and Sammy hit a shot with power that would not be expected from those spindly legs, forcing John Terry to clear from right on the goalline.
Their team continued to look highly vulnerable to almost every Chelsea counter-attack, however. Krul kept foiling Sturridge, but in the last few minutes even he could not prevent two further goals set up by the fresh legs of substitutes. Fernando Torres, on for the exhausted Drogba, could have scored one of them himself but delayed his shot and was fortunate that the ball ran for him to set up Salomon Kalou's deflected drive. It was cruel that Kalou should then make a third for Sturridge, if only right that the winger should score at last.
His recent performances have been the principal reason why Chelsea can dispense with Nicolas Anelka, who along with the defender Alex has had a transfer request accepted and been left to train on his own after what Villas-Boas, in his always interesting use of English, called "a frontal conversation".
Newcastle (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini (Perch, 27), R Taylor; Obertan, Cabaye, Guthrie, Lovenkrands (Sammy Ameobi, 71); Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi, h-t), Ba.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Romeu, Lampard (Meireles, 60); Sturridge, Drogba (Torres, 79), Mata (Kalou, 74).
Referee Mike Dean.
Man of the match Mata (Chelsea).
Match rating 8/10.