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Newcastle 0 - 0 Chelsea


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St_James_Park3.jpgNewcastle United 0 - 0 ChelseaBarclay's Premiership - 22 April 2007 - Saint James' Park - 13:30 kick-off_42832609_mourinho203.jpgChelsea ruined the opportunity to close Manchester United's lead at the top of the Premiership to a single point, after a shambolic performance against a struggling Newcastle United side.Despite coming into the game on the back of a nine game winning streak in the Premiership, Chelsea's lingering title hopes suffered a serious blow, as the Champions failed to test stand-in Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper.In fact, the Blues' best effort on goal in the whole ninety minutes was a clever flick by Joe Cole, only for the England midfielder to see the ball roll inches around the post. Newcastle had their fair share of shots, and Petr Cech was forced to pull off a wonderful save from Kieron Dyer early in the second half after the Newcastle midfielder beat the offside trap only to see his shot well smothered by Cech. Obafemi Martins headed over from 8 yards from the subsequent corner._42832455_martine416.jpgClaude Makelele was one of few players to truly shine for ChelseaThe draw leaves Chelsea three points behind leaders United, who drew 1-1 at home with Middlesbrough, thanks to a well-taken header by Australian striker Mark Viduka. José Mourinho was surely hoping his strikers would have been even half as clinical after a fruitless first half. However, Chelsea were well-marshalled by Emre and Nicky Butt in the centre of midfield, and for long spells of the game, the Champions were on the back foot. However, the introduction of Joe Cole just after half-time finally injected some excitement into what had mean a tale of two Midfields, and Salomon Kalou became more of a threat to a resurgent Newcastle back-line after he moved to the left-flank.But even the fact Chelsea were resting key players could not hide the poor performance, and without Ashley Cole's sparkling runs down the flank and Ricardo Carvalho's dominating presence in the Chelsea defence, the Blues lost Michael Ballack after a rash tackle with just 15 minutes gone.After the 1-4 win at Upton Park - Chelsea's biggest-ever win away to West Ham - and with a midweek game against Liverpool in the Champions League to come, José Mourinho rested Ricardo Carvalho, who had picked up a slight muscle strain in training. Andrei Shevchenko's late return to fitness could not herald a starting place, and the £30 million Ukrainian started on the bench, along with Joe Cole. Claude Makelele replaced Mikel John Obi, but the young Nigerian would be forced to come on after a quarter-of-an-hour on his birthday. Shaun Wright-Phillips continued in midfield, and Paulo Ferreira started in place of Lassana Diarra._42832453_b416.jpgMichael Ballack feels the full force of Bramble's poor tackle.Newcastle had been struggling in the League - especially at Saint James' Park where they had failed to score, let alone win since 10th February - the same day Chelsea ruthlessly dispatched Middlesbrough 3-0 at Stamford Bridge. However, the omens were bright for the Geordies, even if the bookies had Chelsea as certain favourites. The West-London outfit had not won in the league on Tyneside for three seasons, and had been beaten 1-0 the previous season. Even with ex-Chelsea players Damien Duff, Celestine Babayaro and captain Scott Parker all injured and out of the squad, the return to fitness of Emre Belezoglu and Antoine Sibierski gave much relief to Glenn Roeder, who had lost his first-choice goalkeeper Shay Given to injury weeks before the encounter.Yet the Newcastle manager could have played his Under-10s academy shotstopper against a Chelsea attack that were about as gelled together as a piece of a jigsaw hammered into the wrong position.Chelsea fans - and those of Newcastle also - had expected a far more open, attacking approach to the game from both teams - Newcastle's home record was poor and it would take just moments for the Toon faithful to turn on their team. Chelsea, on the other hand, had the golden opportunity to close the gap to a point - the smallest the difference between England's top two sides had been since October. But, in the opposite of recent Chelsea fashion, the Blues could not register after a Manchester United result. Perhaps it was the knowledge they had a cushion to fall back on, and that victory was not a necessity - but whatever the reason is, José Mourinho will be quick to voice his concern with the daunting prospect of Liverpool knocking on Chelsea's door. Memories of that goal in 2005 at Anfield still fuel a feud between the two teams.The game itself was virtually-eventless - neither team could create openings in either's defence in the opening periods, which would later go on to become the moral of the game. However, as the half went on, it was Newcastle who shaded position with the better ballplay, as Glenn Roeder's team looked to get every man in a black and white shirt involved in the game. Kieron Dyer squandered an excellent opportunity, after good pressure by Newcastle. The midfielder poked wide after good defensive play by Portuguese right-back Paulo Ferreira, who was making his first Premier League start for weeks. Obafemi Martins shot from range, but his deflected effort did not alert Petr Cech into making a move, as the ball rolled out of play into the advertising hoardings. Perhaps the best opportunity of the game followed shortly after, with good link-up-play with left-back Stephen Carr and Emre. The Irish defender - usually a right-back - was in an excellent position, but could only scrape his pass into a crowd of player, allowing Claude Makelele to volley clear with a scissor kick.But if there were to be any predominant talking points during the half-time, they were to be of the numerous penalty shouts Chelsea had. The first came as Antoine Sibierski appeared to man-handle John Terry as the Chelsea skipper jumped for the ball in the Newcastle penalty area, with replays showing that the Frenchman clearly held the England captain back as he jumped for the ball.Come half-time, Manchester United would have been sighing, hugely relieved. But for all of Chelsea's quality, delivery from corners and freekicks by Frank Lampard left much to be desired, and the usual darting runs of Wayne Bridge down the left touchline were somewhat lacking his usual energy. But a miserable, grey day was to become an agonising one for Chelsea, as they went looking for their 10th consecutive win in the League._42832611_dyer416.jpgGoalkeepers don't earn even half as much praise as goalscorers. They should.Thousands of thoughts must have gone through José Mourinho's mind at half-time, as Chelsea seemed to look far brighter in the early stages of the second half. In fact, just 48 seconds into the second part of the game, Salomon Kalou got behind the Newcastle defence, only to see his pull back to Drogba blocked by the ever-impressive Stephen Taylor, earlier praised in midweek by England coach Steve McClaren for 'being in the mould of John Terry and Tony Adams' as a defender.Lampard pushed forward, leaving Wright-Phillips, Mikel and Makelele to form a midfield triangle as the Chelsea vice-captain played behind the two strikers. Drogba had barely touched the ball come the 55 minute mark, when Chelsea reverted to a 4-3-3. Lampard moved back into a more central midfield role, with Kalou and Joe Cole either flank of Drogba. Wright-Phillips went off, and Makelele would soon follow.John Terry had a third penalty shout turned down by referee Halsey, claiming Sibierski had impeded his run. To his fury, the referee, who had a poor game, game a free-kick to Newcastle. Newcastle had two chances in 38 seconds soon after Salomon Kalou had pulled the ball back to Frank Lampard, who blazed over from 9 yards. First, Keiron Dyer broke through the defence to see his shot to close to Petr Cech, who raced out of goal to parry behind for a corner. The resulting corner nearly brought a goal, with Martins heading marginally over.Chelsea looked to have scored just after the hour, only for Nicky Butt to walk the ball off the line after Kalou had tapped the ball around 'keeper Harper following Joe Cole's cross-shot._42832779_butt416.jpgNicky Butt rescues NewcastleOn 75 minutes, José Mourinho looked to Andrei Shevchenko, but even one of Europe's most outstanding strikers failed to break down the home team's defence. Like Manchester United the day before them, Chelsea's luck had finally run out.Yet when four minutes were showed by the fourth official, Chelsea seemed to roar into life for the first time in the match. But even their amazing ability to create goals in the last minutes of a game could not win them the game, as Joe Cole deflected Ferreira's teasing cross wide. Chelsea knew they had blown their chance. And with only four more games left, the Blues will have their work cut out for them if they are to claim an unprecedented quadruple._42832681_drogba416.jpgEven Didier Drogba, who had scored twice agaisnt Newcastle this season, could not break down the home team.Squads and RatingsNewcastle (4-4-1-1) Harper; Solano, Bramble, Taylor, Carr; Dyer, Butt ©, Emre, Milner; Sibierski (Carroll 78); Martins. Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2) Cech; Ferreira, Essien, Terry ©, Bridge; Makelele (Shevchenko 76); Wright-Phillips (J Cole 54), Lampard; Ballack (Mikel 17); Drogba, Kalou.Booked Essien (66), Mikel (82), Lampard (85).Chelsea Formation and RatingsPetr Cech7/10Ferreira .... Terry ..... Essien ..... Bridge6/10 .........6/10 ........ 7/10.......... 6/10W.Phillips .... Ballack ..... Makelele....... Lampard6/10 .........6/10 ........ 7/10.......... 5/10Drogba .......... Kalou6/10 ............ 7/10Substitutes:John Obi Mikel - 7/10Andrei Shevchenko - 6/10Joe Cole - 7/10Referee - Mark Halsey - 2/10Newcastle - Statistics - Chelsea1 - Shots on Target - 0 7 - Shots off Target - 6 2 - Blocked Shots - 5 4 - Corners - 2 16 - Fouls - 16 0 - Offsides - 2 0 - Yellow Cards - 3 0 - Red Cards - 0 36 - Tackles - 26 47 - Possession - 52 Star Man_42279608_footy10.jpgClaude MakeleleViews of the Blues
I have to Say that was extremely poor, not just the performance but the attitude, if they can't get themselves up for going 1 point behind Man you then they never will. I just can't explain it, we couldn't string 2 passes together and we never ever looked like scoring. I would hate to say the players look un-interested but they did. Psychologically that will give Man you a lift when they could have felt down and almost buried.I just hope that is the 1 bad game out of our system because we still have 2 cups to win, although you do get the sinking feelingwe have blown our chance to win the league.
I remain hopeful, but its frustrating for us to let it slip back out of our hands at the perfect oppurtunity to take a firm grip. I don't think there was a lack of passion, it just didn't fit together, and maybe the pressure of the situation got to them, which says a lot for how much we deserve to win this thing.

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