Newcaslte 1 – 2 Chelsea
DeAndre Yedlin’s late own goal preserved Chelsea’s perfect start to the new Premier League season as stubborn Newcastle saw a point snatched from their grasp.
The Magpies thought they had banked a point when substitute Joselu headed home an 83rd-minute equaliser to cancel out Eden Hazard’s penalty seven minutes earlier.
However, their joy was short-lived when Yedlin could only help Marcos Alonso’s drive into his own net with three minutes remaining as Rafael Benitez’s ultra-defensive masterplan failed to deny the visitors a first league win at St James’ Park since December 2011 in front of a crowd of 51,791.
Eyebrows were raised before kick-off when Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles’ name did not appear on the teamsheet amid reports of a training ground disagreement with his manager, although when asked about the defender’s absence in a pre-match television interview, Benitez responded: “We have enough centre-backs, that’s it.”
The Magpies lined up in a 5-4-1 formation in an attempt to stifle Chelsea and although they saw little of the ball in the early stages, it was they who mustered the first shot of the game when Jacob Murphy forced Kepa Arrizabalaga into a save with a skidding sixth-minute effort from distance.
With Jorginho afforded time and space to prompt from central midfield and Hazard and Mateo Kovacic buzzing around ahead of him, the visitors were dominating in terms of both possession and territory but without creating meaningful openings.
Defender Antonio Rudiger lashed a 16th-minute snapshot well wide amid a goalmouth scramble but as the half approached its mid-point, keeper Martin Dubravka had not had a save to make.
However, Hazard served warning of the threat he posed with a smart turn and acceleration before steering a 24th-minute shot wide and Alvaro Morata saw an effort blocked behind four minutes later as Chelsea raised the tempo.
But it was Newcastle who went close to the opening goal 11 minutes before the break when Salomon Rondon met Federico Fernandez’s cross unopposed, only to power his header inches wide.
Pedro skied wastefully over at the other end seconds later and then called upon Dubravka for the first time from Hazard’s unselfish pull-back, and skipper Cesar Azpilicueta was denied on the stroke of half-time when his goal-bound shot was inadvertently blocked by team-mate Morata.
Azpilicueta forced Dubravka into a smart save five minutes after the restart with the Magpies retreating deep into their own half, but with Benitez’s men repeatedly squandering possession, there was little respite.
Rudiger was unfortunate not to score when he rattled the bar with a 30-yard thunderbolt, but the deadlock was broken with 76 minutes gone when Alonso went to ground under debutant Fabian Schar’s challenge and referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot, with Hazard obliging emphatically from 12 yards.
The Magpies were back in it within seven minutes when Yedlin – with Chelsea protesting after he appeared to catch Olivier Giroud with an elbow – crossed for Joselu to send a bullet header into the top corner despite Kepa’s best efforts.
But Yedlin’s afternoon took a turn for the worse when he inadvertently turned Alonso’s shot past Dubravka to hand Chelsea victory.
– Press Association