Newcastle showed they have the appetite for a scrap in the bottom half of the table as Isaac Hayden’s dramatic injury-time header earned a vital win against a dominant Chelsea.
Frank Lampard’s side were on top for most of the game but had little to show for it as Tammy Abraham skewed wide from an acute angle and N’Golo Kante’s shot was well saved by Martin Dubravka.
Prior to the winner, it was the hosts who came closest to scoring as Joelinton headed against the bar after Federico Fernandez’s cross after 22 minutes.
But Steve Bruce’s side showed their steel by keeping Chelsea at arm’s length with a resolute defensive display.
And when Hayden headed in Allan Saint-Maximin’s cross past Kepa Arrizabalaga, it sent St James’ Park into raptures as they moved seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Their only worry was an injury to Jetro Willems, who was carried off in the first half.
Bruce said after the game that the problem looked “horrendous” with him fearing a cruciate knee ligament injury.
For Chelsea, it was another frustrating day during a mixed season under Lampard, who took over in the summer.
It was a first defeat since Boxing Day but they will rue another missed chance to improve their top-four claims after also drawing at Brighton earlier this month.
The Blues remain five points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United, who face Liverpool on Sunday.
But the lack of firepower up front may sharpen Lampard’s intentions to recruit a striker during the transfer window after being linked with the likes of RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner.
Newcastle fortunate after string of bad luck
Bruce said prior to the game that he was happy with his squad and would only bring players in during the transfer window if they would improve on his current crop.
And they showed their defensive quality by holding out against a Chelsea side who had 70% possession during the game and created the vast majority of the chances in freezing conditions on Tyneside.
If there was a touch of fortune to the result, Bruce will not care.
His side has been struck by a succession of injuries this season, and he will be delighted that the returning Saint-Maximin created the goal which lifts his side to 12th place in the table.
The result also earned a fourth game unbeaten for the first time this season, albeit with two of those games coming against Rochdale in the FA Cup.
Despite all of Chelsea’s endeavour, it was Newcastle that created the game’s other best chance when Joelinton crashed a header against the crossbar.
With the £40m summer signing breaking a 20-game goal drought by scoring against Rochdale, Saint-Maximin offering trickery on the wing after a hamstring injury and Miguel Almiron scoring in three of the last four games, Bruce may feel his luck is turning.
The cheer that greeted the final whistle underlined how elated and surprised the home crowd were as the hosts earned their first Premier League win since December 21.
Frustrated Lampard rues poor finishing
Chelsea came into the match unbeaten since Boxing Day but it was another game where Lampard’s young side showed their inexperience in front of goal.
Abraham, who has excelled in his first season at Chelsea with 15 goals, was wasteful at times, but there were also missed chances for Mason Mount, who headed over, plus Willian and Emerson, who could not find the target.
Despite their links with a striker during the transfer window and the potential departure of Olivier Giroud to Inter Milan, Lampard has said nothing is “imminent”.
But he showed his frustration on the touchlines as his side failed to take advantage, much as they did in a 1-1 draw at Brighton earlier this month.
Lampard’s faith in youth has drawn praise this season, and while home losses to Bournemouth and Southampton have been countered by away wins against Tottenham and Arsenal, this result will offer the new Chelsea boss plenty of food for thought.
His strict adherence to playing one lone striker may also be something he will consider in games where teams sit behind the ball and try to break as Newcastle did so successfully.
And there may be further questions about Arrizabalaga, who has had a mixed season, and looked like he could have done more to prevent the winner going in.
Man of the match – Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle)
Unhappy hunting ground for Blues – the stats
- Newcastle manager Steve Bruce has picked up just his second Premier League victory against Chelsea on what was his 23rd managerial game in the competition against the Blues (D5 L16).
- Chelsea have lost five of their last seven trips to St James’ Park in the Premier League (W1 D1).
- Isaac Hayden’s goal was Newcastle’s first 90th-minute winner in the Premier League since December 2015 (Ayoze Perez against Tottenham).
- Chelsea have now lost as many games after 23 Premier League games this season (8) as they did in the entirety of 2018-19.
- Since the start of 2019, only Liverpool (19), Man City (17) and Spurs (12) have more home Premier League wins than Newcastle (11).
- At 93 minutes and 26 second’s, Isaac Hayden’s winner was Newcastle’s latest Premier League goal since Yohan Cabaye netted against West Ham back in January 2014 (94 minutes and 9 seconds).
- Isaac Hayden’s goal for Newcastle was just his third in the Premier League on his 70th appearance in the competition and first since February 2019 against Wolves.
‘The brutal reality of football’ – what the managers said
Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce, speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “I can’t fault my players for the way we defended. The big thing we need to do better is look after the ball and cause more of a threat. Today we didn’t seem to carry a threat. But one great ball or delivery – you may call it smash and grab, but it is good to see.
“We can’t press from the front like Chelsea do. If we did that we would come a cropper. We have to do it our way, a way that suits the squad we have got.
“We can get better but we have had results against the top teams. They find it difficult to play against us and that’s what we try to do.”
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “We dominated every aspect of the game. They hit the bar in the first half but the rest of the game was ours, except scoring.
“Newcastle defend their box, you won’t make too many clear-cut chances against them. We controlled the game, we were at the end of their box. If we want to go to the next level we have to take chances and score in these kind of games.
“The lads have got their heads down in there. But the brutal reality of football is if you don’t score, teams stay in the game and something like that happens at the end.”
Newcastle travel to Everton in their next game on Tuesday, 21 January (kick-off 19:30 GMT), while Chelsea host Arsenal in the evening’s late kick-off (20:15 GMT).
Article courtesy of BBC Sport