Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chelsea spoils hero's welcome

Alan Shearer's triumphant return started with a flourish but when the curtain came down Newcastle had dropped the match 2-0 to Chelsea. The loss is particularly damaging as both Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City edged closer to safety with victories and now forces the Magpies to make up three points on the nearest side, local rivals Sunderland.

Possibly the greatest clue that the stars were not in align came with the Magpies down 2-0 and Michael Owens effort with seventeen minutes was a metre over the line before Ashley Cole cleared it back in. The goal, a stubborn lifeline was thrown but somehow Rob Styles’ missed the call as 52,112 watched in disbelief. A shot straight to the heart but through the mire, Newcastle pressed on and will continue to do so.

The match started with the expected fan-fare and heavyweight title bout was such a thing was event, with hopes and dreams and haziest of visions of number 9 passing on his magic. There of-course was little doubt of Chelsea's pedigree but through grit determination Newcastle was clawing its way to keeping the high-flying side off the score-sheet as the match went to the half. True at the end of the day the loss is troublesome but if Newcastle can capture the same claret and vinegar elixir, safety is in the horizon. After the restart and a number of tense situations Newcastle gave up the deadly goal via a simple blunder as Damian Duff played the ball to Jonás Gutiérrez and intense of launching the ball forward the Argentine international took one touch to control and invited disaster. Nicolas Anelka quickly pressured him and after the ball skirted free his effort was blocked by Steve Harper to only hit the upper post. Ryan Taylor hurried towards the line as the ball bounded conveniently to Frank Lampard for the kill shot. Down by one, there was no give but another great in concentration lead to Florent Malouda doubling the margin nine minutes later. What appeared to be a routine long ball by Chelsea 'keeper Petr Čech was flicked on by Nicolas Anelka to Frank Lampard, with the English international dissecting absent Newcastle defenders and sending the ball to Florent Malouda for the knife through the heart. If there was hope it ended with the missed call on Michael Owen's "non-goal" but otherwise if it had not been for Steve Harper the scoreline could have been far worse.

Following the match, Allan Shearer expressed hope in the performance, saying:

"Effort-wise - no complaints. Quality-wise we can get better. We can pick up quality but on the other hand we are playing Chelsea and the good thing is that we are not playing them every week.

"We've got to try and get some confidence into the players, and I'm trying to pick out as many positive as I can. They don't want to hear me harping on about negatives."