Andre Villas-Boas finally had something to cheer about as Chelsea gave a performance which showed they are making progress and moving in the right direction after the recent debacles, after they broke Newcastle United’s unbeaten start to the season at home and recorded a 3-0 victory at St. James’s Park.
The pressure had been mounting on the young manager after a series of insipid performances which have resulted in us getting dumped out of the Carling Cup and fighting for our lives in the rest of the competitions.
Didier Drogba started, as hinted by Villas-Boas himself in midweek, alongside Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge; with the midfield seeing Oriol Romeu continuing to hold his place, but saw the return of Frank Lampard after his exclusion in midweek.
Newcastle United on the other hand was missing the influential Jonas Gutierrez through suspension, while the ever-impressive Cheick Tioté failed to recover from his knee injury as Danny Gutherie continued in his absence.
After an emotional tribute to the former Geordie captain, the Late Gary Speed, the match started in spectacular fashion and had the biggest talking point of the game when David Luiz was let-off after bringing down Demba Ba when the Senegalese International had the chance to be through on goal.
The Chelsea fan’s favourite was very lucky to survive that decision, and then was thankful for John Terry that his slip in the box was cleared by the England captain, in what was a very shaky start from him.
As if Mike Dean was purposely planning to rile in the Newcastle supporters, he awarded a penalty to Chelsea at the other end when Yohan Cabaye tripped Daniel Sturridge, after Ryan Tayor failed to match up with the explosive speed of the youngster. Frank Lampard stepped up, but unfortunately Tim Krul was in inspired form and palmed it on to the post.
The Dutchman was again at hand to deny Chelsea when he saved from Daniel Sturridge. It was turning into a very open game courtesy of some weak defending on Newcastle part as Ryan Taylor continued to struggle without Jonas Gutierrez there to support him; and Sturridge was taking full advantage of this and beating him at every opportunity.
It wasn’t all Chelsea though; Newcastle kept plugging away at our less than formidable defence and could have taken the lead through Ba, but Cech did well to tip it over. Ba was again troubling the Chelsea defence when he headed in a brilliant cross Danny Guthrie at the post.
In between, it was a piece of Juan Mata trickery which created an opening for Didier Drogba after his deftest of touch left Danny Simpson hanging, but his great cross was cleared at the last minute by Ryan Taylor before Drogba could put it in.
Ryan Taylor was still struggling, but it got even worse for Newcastle when Fabricio Coloccini had to go off with a hamstring problem and was replaced by James Perch. It was always going to be tough for Perch to match up to the strength of Didier Drogba and it was no surprise when Didier Drogba managed to beat him to head-in the first goal of the match.
Ashley Cole took a quick throw-in which caught the Newcastle defence napping allowing Juan Mata to get-in behind and produce the cross for the first goal.
It should have been two just before the break when Frank Lampard released Daniel Sturridge, but in this 1-v-1 battle it was Krul who came out the winner again.
Newcastle were still livid over the David Luiz decision going into the break, but clearly other issues at hand to deal with in the interval.
Just after the break, Didier Drogba had a great chance to double our lead when he brought down a cross from the right almost perfectly, but couldn’t match it up with a similar finish and hit it into the side-netting.
The impressive Krul story was still in full flow; Ramires was denied of a quick counter after a Didier Drogba header under pressure from Ba came off the bar and found its way to Mata who released Daniel Sturridge, and his perfect pass found the Brazilian, in what was one of the best Chelsea counters you’ll see.
Chelsea were now holding a much better shape in defence and rarely looked in any trouble as Newcastle was now restricted to long-distance shots as first Amoebi and then Ba tried their luck.
The Blues continued to go for the elusive second goal which would make the game safe as Mata went very close after some work from Sturridge.
Newcastle was always going to test the Chelsea resolve with being only a goal behind and came close as John Terry cleared off the line before a thunderous strike from Shola Amoebi rattled the crossbar and a follow-up from Sammy Amoebi was saved by Cech.
The game was soon to be settled though as the much dreaded Salomon Kalou broke Tim Krul’s resistance and was followed up by a much deserved goal from Daniel Sturridge.
Daniel Sturridge was the star of the show, but there was a case for John Terry to share that mantle as he produced a scintillating performance of his own.
Some of the satisfaction of the result was blighted at the end when Andre Villas-Boas confirmed to the media that both Nicolas Anelka and Alex have had their transfer request accepted and are now training differently to the first team, meaning that most probably both of them had played their last game in Blue of Chelsea.
Andre Villas was a much relieved man and left satisfied ahead of the crunch clash against Valencia, he said; ‘It was a good, solid performance for the whole 90 minutes,’ he said. ‘To find this inner belief and strength today given recent results was the key.
‘3-0 was probably slightly excessive, but we were coming up against a team on a great run and with one of the best defences in the league, we did fantastically well, and it was the fairest of results.’
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Romeu, Lampard (Meireles 60); Sturridge, Drogba (Torres 78), Mata (Kalou 74th).
Scorers Drogba 37, Kalou 86, Sturridge 90+2.