Well before the game ended, it was evident that Newcastle’s players were willing to do whatever it takes to please their manager, Eddie Howe. Despite facing numerous injuries, Howe’s team displayed an impressive amount of energy, overpowering a supposedly resurgent Chelsea. One can only wonder what kind of fuel Howe provides his team with.
Reece James of Chelsea received a second yellow card in the 73rd minute, but by that point, the home team had already established a strong lead. The idea that Mauricio Pochettino could lead a serious push for Champions League qualification at Stamford Bridge seemed unrealistic. It was clear from the game that the team is still working on their defensive abilities in west London.
According to Pochettino, our performance in this game was the worst we have had all season. We do not have any excuses and we did not have a good understanding of the game from the beginning. Our intensity and energy were lacking. I am extremely frustrated and disappointed, even upset. We were not strong enough in any of the challenges. We did not demonstrate that we were truly fighting for something important. We need to have more mental resilience.
Newcastle’s injury situation is extremely severe, to the point where Howe’s bench of substitutes included three goalkeepers and four young players who were brought up from the under-21 team.
With 11 senior players currently injured, it raises the question of whether this is just bad luck, the unfamiliar challenge of balancing Champions League and domestic games, or a result of Newcastle’s intense playing style leading to burnout.
It could be a combination of all three, but the similarities to when Marcelo Bielsa’s high-intensity Leeds team faced a similar struggle cannot be overlooked. For example, why has Joe Willock suffered an achilles injury so soon after recovering from a long absence due to the same injury? Newcastle cannot rely on facing teams as lenient as Chelsea every week.
At least Alexander Isak was back following a groin problem and marked his return by scoring a fine, 13th-minute goal. When a sublime pass from the excellent 17-year-old Lewis Miley unhinged Chelsea’s defence, the Sweden striker found himself played onside by Marc Cucurella and proceeded to take a classy steadying touch before swivelling and sweeping an unstoppable shot past Robert Sánchez.
Raheem Sterling wasted no time in scoring the equalizer. After Kieran Trippier fouled Sterling near the penalty area, Sterling decided to take the free kick himself. He expertly curved the ball over the wall, hitting the underside of the bar and leaving Nick Pope with no chance of stopping it. Sterling’s determined and clever performance was one of the few bright spots for Pochettino.
Despite facing adversity, Newcastle showed determination and did not give up. They utilized their energy to continuously attack with their usual intense and thrilling ferocity. There were moments when Chelsea struggled to defend against them.
Although Joelinton had a close miss with an unmarked header and Trippier’s free kick hit the bar, Howe seemed quite relieved when Pope mistakenly passed the ball to Conor Gallagher. It was only due to a quick and impressive save from Tino Livramento that Chelsea did not score a second goal.
Pochettino, who was banned from the touchline and forced to watch from the directors’ box, must have been disappointed with how his players allowed themselves to be pushed around by their physically dominant opponents. It was no surprise when Jamaal Lascelles scored Newcastle’s second goal.
As soon as the unaccompanied central defender (where was Benoît Badiashile?) connected with Anthony Gordon’s pass and directed a header into the net past Sánchez, Joelinton increased the lead.
On this occasion, Thiago Silva was at fault. The experienced defender made a terrible error with a back pass, allowing Joelinton to quickly steal the ball and score Newcastle’s third goal.
James, who had an earlier confrontation with Howe’s assistant, Jason Tindall, received a second yellow card for fouling Gordon. Gordon, who had an impressive performance, had the last say by scoring a low shot past Sánchez after receiving a chipped through pass from Miguel Almirón.
“I refuse to give up,” stated Howe ahead of Tuesday’s match against Paris Saint-Germain. “It was a strong display of our team’s character. We didn’t make any excuses for ourselves.”