It was meant to be the toughest challenge this new look Chelsea team faced so far this season. A Newcastle team filled with talent and brimming with confidence following their end to last season and their opening day win against Tottenham. What followed was a terrific team display from Chelsea, there were a few standout performances but equally important there were very things that seemed to go wrong.
Victory was made sweeter with the added bonus of a clean sheet. Chelsea’s second this season but there were very few moments of threat throughout the whole game from Newcastle’s star strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse. Credit for that has to go down to Luiz and Cahill who started the game as the centre back pairing. The selection due to Terry’s injury means that Chelsea have started the first three games with three different pairings.
In midfield Raul Meireles came in for Frank Lampard, who at 34 would’ve possibly struggled to play the 3 games in 11 days, especially with the Super Cup this Friday in Monaco against Atletico Madrid. However his presence like Terry’s appeared not to be missed. Meireles was one of the standout performers, where Mikel disrupted Newcastle’s play, Meireles’ passing was quick and decisive, he constantly found the right pass and contributed greatly to the quick tempo football.
Once again like the first two games, Eden Hazard was the star of the show. His third man of the match awards means he became the first player to win the award with his first three matches. Defenders seem frightened when he dribbles at them and it is a welcome sight at Stamford Bridge. There is something special already developing between Hazard and Mata, the pair have only played with each other for around 3 weeks and the understanding at this stage is already frightening. Mata, whose start to the season has been completely overshadowed by Hazard had his best game so far, he looked much more lively and didn’t appear to be a player in need of rest.
Ryan Bertrand was deployed as a left winger yesterday by Di Matteo and he put in another brilliant performance. His selection was initially more likely to be to cover the attacking runs of Gutierrez or Ben Arfa but once they showed no threat, Bertrand pushed himself higher up the pitch and wider and was a terrific outlet and stretched the Newcastle defence well to give more room to the likes of Hazard and Mata.
Fernando Torres got his second goal of the season in the league and it was a brilliant finish. After some smart play on the edge of the box, Hazard flicked the ball into Torres’ path and the striker buried the ball into the top corner with the outside of his boot. Earlier on in the game, Torres had won the initial penalty to make it 1-0 after a good dribble saw him clumsily taken down in the box. It was by far Torres’ best performance so far and most consistent. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this is a player whose confidence appears so fragile it might break at any second, but after a bright start Torres wanted to be involved more and more and took it upon himself to find space and get the ball. The only minor criticism that could be made was his lack of shooting when he gets into positions just outside the box. That confidence will come through more performances like that against Newcastle and is good news for Chelsea and Fernando Torres fans.
It has only been three games but Chelsea sit on top of the table having played a game more than all the other clubs bar Reading. Each performance appears to be more impressive than the last and with new signings Moses and Azpilicueta, the squad is increasing in depth and strength. Another factor to consider is one of chemistry with all these new signings that however good they look right now, once the players have more and more training sessions together it can only get better.
The next match is on friday against Atletico Madrid. A tough challenge for the defence in having to deal with arguably Europe’s best striker and Chelsea target Radamel Falcao but it will represent a chance of silverware for the club and after missing out on the community shield, it will be nice to get a trophy under the belt, even if it is considered more of a friendly affair.