We headed to Stamford Bridge fresh (ish, taking into consideration the international break) off the back of a 1-0 much needed win against Man United, with hope that it had signaled a turning point in our season. Discussing it beforehand, we knew that Chelsea was going to be a difficult match – they’ve had a decent start and seem to have found their feet under Lampard now – but there was the traditional pre game tentative optimism that we might snatch a point from the Blues.
The heavens opened just as we were arriving at the ground, which didn’t feel like a great omen. We got in and got to our seats with time to spare (very unusual) and the away end was already singing. The team news had come out the hour before so we knew we were fielding the same side we had against Manchester. We were sat in the shed upper with a great view. The game kicked off, and by about ten minutes it was clear that the team wasn’t the totally clueless side we’ve seen at too many fixtures this season. Defensively solid, and it looked like we had potential for some chances – or we could at least keep Chelsea out.
The first half showed some promise for Newcastle. ASM providing some pace – racing up the pitch with the ball when he had it – and the rest of our side seeming to frustrate a slightly slower Chelsea. By about the twenty minute mark they were finding their feet a bit – Hudson Odoi had a couple of chances but Dubravka made some excellent saves (something that would become a bit of a theme for this match). We went into half time with a hope that if we could continue like this we could keep the scoreline at 0-0. Note, though, that that was our thinking because our defence was working extremely hard (Ciaran Clark gets a special mention here). We were showing almost no attacking threat and weren’t creating any chances. At best this looked like a 0-0, but away at Stamford Bridge I would have been alright with that!
The second half got started and we were hoping for more of the same – essentially to annoy this Chelsea side into a draw. They came out a bit more energised and it was quickly clear that we weren’t going to rise up and meet them there. Chelsea brought on Pulisic at around sixty minutes, and began a sort of relentless campaign in their third – almost every ball found its way back there and our defence were being pressed very hard. Almirón came off for Andy Carroll (who I just can’t help but like) but this Chelsea side was absolutely determined by this point. An assist from Hudson Odoi to Alonso then slipped past Dubravka and Chelsea went 1-0 up with about fifteen minutes to spare.
We remained hopeful for about five of those fifteen, but ultimately we weren’t driving the ball up the pitch at all. It was disappointing to watch. Dwight Gayle made his return as he was subbed on, and Atsu was brought on for the last ten minutes or so in an attempt to inject some pace, but with one shot on target the whole game you can draw your own conclusions about how that went.
It wasn’t as dispiriting a display as at Leicester, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done with our forward players. They’re not linking up, not creating chances, and not scoring goals. This has got to change.