Chelsea were made to work hard to continue their perfect start to the season before they completed a 2-1 win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park.
Chelsea dominated possession from start to finish, with Newcastle defending with all of their men behind the ball. This meant that chances came few and far between, with a decisive pass hard to make through tight spaces in the final third.
Patience and persistence was the name of the game for Chelsea, with Newcastle never really managing to threaten, bar with an odd chance. And, they were finally rewarded with 15 minutes left in regulation time as Marcos Alonso was awarded a penalty, albeit a contentious one, which was converted by Eden Hazard.
The game then sprung to life in the 83rd minute as Newcastle United scored a shock equaliser, although the referee should have disallowed it for a foul by DeAndre Yedlin in the build-up. But, the hearts of the Toon Army were broken with mere moments left in the game as Chelsea went back ahead.
Full-time: Newcastle 1-2 Chelsea!
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 26, 2018
Marcos Alonso’s cross was headed wide before Yedlin intervened and turned the ball into his own net. Chelsea, thus, continued their perfect start to the season, and are now second in the table, with just goal difference separating them and Liverpool. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Maurizio Sarri’s men.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 6/10
A spectator for the most part as Chelsea dominated the proceedings, Kepa only had the occasional regulation save to make on Sunday. The young Spaniard acquitted himself well on the day, even collecting the ball confidently. But, he stood no chance to stop the dubious goal.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
With Jacob Murphy practically the second wing-back for much of the match, Azpilicueta had little to do at the back. The Chelsea skipper though, was a constant outlet in the final third, always making himself available for a pass while also taking a couple of shots on goal. One aspect of his game that needs some work is his delivery.
Antonio Rudiger: 7.5/10
An accomplished performance by Rudiger after a rather forgettable outing against Arsenal last week. While he wasn’t troubled much, the German international read the game well on the rare occasion when Newcastle threatened, quickly snuffing out the danger presented. Wasn’t at his ruthless best inside the opposition box, though.
David Luiz: 5.5/10
Like Rudiger, Luiz was solid for the most part, although he wasn’t really tested. The Brazilian’s primary responsibilities seemed to be distributing the ball, which he did smartly. But, he brought undue pressure on his side when he was caught napping by Joselu for Newcastle’s goal. Despite the questionable validity of the goal, the error remains inexcusable.
Marcos Alonso: 7.5/10
For the third game running, Alonso played a pivotal role in Chelsea’s win. With Matt Ritchie busy in his own half, the Spaniard had the license to charge forward and provide the threat out wide. His efforts paid off in the form of two assists, although not how one would usually imagine.
The first came when he was fouled inside the Newcastle box to win the penalty for Chelsea, and the second when DeAndre Yedlin scored the own goal from his cross. Speaking of crosses, his delivery wasn’t at its best on Sunday, and he ought to take quick decisions in the final third.
N’Golo Kante: 7/10
Another evening when Kante posed a threat around the opposition box. The Frenchman didn’t have much in way of chances, but he kept the game ticking with his simple, yet effective passes. Always at hand to contribute defensively as well, albeit from a much more advanced position, which only helped his side.
The orchestrator for Chelsea, Jorginho was responsible for asserting the Blues’ dominance on the day. The Italian international also switched play smartly, taking the most touches on the ball, while also making the most passes. In fact, his 158 completed passes were astonishingly more than the entire Newcastle side’s 131.
Most passes completed in a single game in Premier League history:
🥇 İlkay Gündoğan: 167 vs. Chelsea (2017/18)
🥈 Fernandinho: 164 vs. Everton (2017/18)
🥉 Jorginho: 158 vs. Newcastle (2018/19)
Didn't take him long to break the top three. pic.twitter.com/6kELrNYZNw
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 26, 2018
The 158 passes also puts him in the top three of all-time in the Premier League in terms of passes completed in a single game – only Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho have made more in a single game. The numbers are just staggering, but they all point towards one thing – Chelsea seem to have struck gold in Jorginho.
Mateo Kovacic: 7/10
A solid full debut for Kovacic, who has completed Sarri’s ideal midfield trio. The Croat complemented the qualities of Jorginho and Kante quite well, and was a bundle of energy as he linked up smartly with Hazard. While he too, kept the play ticking, the inability to produce an incisive final ball was perhaps the only shortcoming in an otherwise strong outing.
A typical Pedro performance, whose energetic runs made him a constant factor. The Spaniard tried to create space, when there wasn’t any existing, with his deceptive movement. He also came close with a couple of half decent opportunities, although he wasn’t as clinical as in the first couple of games.
Alvaro Morata: 6/10
Another promising outing for Morata, although he could have arguably done better. Nevertheless, the Spanish striker is evidently growing in confidence, displaying some sound decision making. His first touch deserted him at times, but it was an accomplished performance, overall, considering the chances weren’t exactly flowing in for him.
Eden Hazard: 9/10
Making his first start of the season, Eden Hazard was simply irresistible on Sunday. Everything that Chelsea created went through the diminutive Belgian wizard, who continues building on his confidence from the World Cup.
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 26, 2018
As far as the numbers are concerned, Hazard took three more shots than any other player (five in all), had the most touches in the opposition box (nine) and most importantly, opened the scoring with his 70th Premier League goal for Chelsea (third behind Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard). With Hazard fit and firing, Sarri will be confident of a strong season.
Olivier Giroud: 7/10
Giroud was exactly what Chelsea needed as the game approached its end. Not only did the Frenchman provide a strong outlet inside the box, his willingness to drop deep was crucial as he won the free-kick that led to the match-winning goal. An able performer off the bench.
Coming on for a tiring Pedro, Willian replaced his energy on the right flank perfectly. The Brazilian recycled the ball smartly as well, and threatened with his ability on the dead ball.
Ross Barkley: N/A
Came on for Kovacic in and around the 80th minute mark. Did not lend much to the game though.