Kai Havertz scores last-minute winner as Chelsea and Newcastle serve reminder of both sides of football

Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle: The Blues left it late to seal the points as focus returned to on-pitch events at Stamford Bridge – until the final whistle, at least

A moment from Kai Havertz that displays why we keep coming back to football, in a match that offered so many reasons to stay away.

Procedure insists we must state the scoreline of this match at Stamford Bridge was a late 1-0 win for Chelsea over Newcastle United, but the real significance is not on the table or anything like this. It is what it means for the sport, and society.

The wonder is how a fixture like this will be looked back on. What will its place in history be?

There were many moments when it barely felt like a football match at all, and not just because it was mostly a poor game.

It is difficult not to feel that, just at the point where the Premier League appears to have reached a peak in terms of financial power, this showcased the absolute worst of the sport. So much of it, put bluntly, was so depressing.

Newcastle United will of course complain that match-winner Havertz should have been sent off, the clumsy jump with his arm such a contrast to the Dennis Bergkamp-style touch for his late goal. The game nevertheless displayed greater moral injustices that are far more important.

On one side, there were the European champions, whose owner has just been sanctioned due to his connection to an autocrat who has staged a horrific invasion of Ukraine and threatened nuclear war.

On the other, there is a club owned by Saudi Arabia, responsible for a conflict in Yemen still considered a worse humanitarian disaster than Ukraine, to go with a litany of human rights abuses. A flag of the country, that only yesterday had 81 people executed, was proudly displayed in the away end; a visible pointer of everything else going on here.

Stamford Bridge still had a banner dedicated to their disqualified owner, the words “The Roman Empire” across a giant Russian flag with Roman Abramovich’s face on it.

That may yet be changed. The future has undeniably changed for Chelsea, as it remains so uncertain.

Newcastle fans goaded them about this before the game, singing “we’re richer than you” and “Chelsea’s skint and the Mags are rich”.

This occasion really was the ghosts of football’s past and present against the ghosts of football’s future, and almost a fitting fixture in the circumstances.

It is also impossible to entangle it from the wider context, not to mention a consequence of the Premier League’s very global power.

One of the reasons the competition is so big, and so international, is because it has had such a lack of regulation over who can own clubs. If you have the money, there’s a good chance you’ll be in.

Look at the Newcastle takeover. Look at the Chelsea takeover.

Abramovich had initially tried to buy both Real Madrid and Barcelona in 2003, only to find both were completely ring-fenced by fan ownership.

That points to why this crisis is a genuine opportunity for the English game.

A very strange day was set off by a meeting of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, who are advocating for a “golden share” of ownership in the next regime. The government are said to be open to this, but some sources insist that much more pressure needs to be applied.

Before we get to any takeover, of course, there is the very existence of the club. Petr Cech was on the pitch before the game talking about the financial restrictions, and how the government licence is going to have to be amended if the club are to survive.

It seems unlikely it will ever get to that, but one figure within Chelsea lamented about how “it’s not football people making these decisions”.

The displacing nature of this occasion was only emphasised by the existential threat to the club’s existence being set against the expense of their squad. Chelsea still have one of the most sparkling sets of players the game has ever assembled. They could even afford to start their most expensive-ever player, Romelu Lukaku, on the bench.

Not that they did all that much here, mind. That was perhaps inevitable. It is understandable that the events of the last two weeks have got to the players, and maybe a certain sense of resolve has passed. The strange flatness of this game wouldn’t have helped.

The home crowd, to their credit, did not really sing Abramovich’s name. A few scattered chants were quickly drowned out.

Newcastle fans, meanwhile, goaded that Mike Ashley is “coming for you”.

Eddie Howe’s squad is already a very different picture to that from the previous owner’s time. It should be stated that some of that is because of Ashley’s asphyxiating under-investment, but then Newcastle would not have been able to afford Kieran Trippier’s wages – or attract him from a Champions League club – without a takeover that should not have been allowed to happen. He didn’t play here but he was the initial spark for the revival.

It is one that is as unprecedented as the situation around this game.

No club in the bottom half of the Premier League, let alone the bottom three, has ever spent £80m in January in the way Newcastle just did.

People in football would be entitled to ask about the merit of all this, so long as they themselves would not be so willing to greet the same takeover.

The state of football indicates that probably wouldn’t be the case for the majority.

The main wonder now is what the new Chelsea owners will look like.

It feeds into what the game will look like.

And then, right at the end of it all, Havertz offered a moment of beauty and an emotional release for fans.

It’s why we keep coming back – a simple moment of pure football amid so many complications.

That's what the game should be about. It is to the shame of the sport it has become about so much else.

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