Wil­lian the hero as Chelsea beat New­cas­tle 2-1

Gulf Times Sport - - FRONT PAGE -

Chelsea ce­mented their grip on fourth place in the Premier League as Wil­lian’s sub­lime strike sealed a 2-1 win over strug­gling New­cas­tle yes­ter­day.

Mau­r­izio Sarri’s side took the lead through Pe­dro’s early goal, but Ciaran Clark snatched a shock equaliser be­fore half-time.

With Chelsea fans be­gin­ning to lose pa­tience at their team’s lat­est splut­ter­ing home dis­play, Wil­lian lifted the mood in the nick of time with his su­perb sec­ond-half curler. Chelsea have won five of their last seven league matches and sit six points clear of fifth-placed Arse­nal, who lost at West Ham ear­lier on Satur­day.

But, while Sarri will be re­lieved to see Chelsea re­main in con­trol of the race to qual­ify for the Cham­pi­ons League, this far from con­vinc­ing per­for­mance raised fresh ques­tions about the for­mer Napoli man­ager’s tac­tics.

Labour­ing to beat third-bot­tom New­cas­tle showed how far Chelsea have to go to bridge the gap in class to lead­ers Liver­pool and cham­pi­ons Manch­ester City.

New­cas­tle find them­selves in the rel­e­ga­tion zone as a re­sult of wins for Southamp­ton and Burn­ley and an­other win­ter of dis­con­tent is brew­ing for the Mag­pies.

They have won only once in their last nine league games and fans again called for con­tro­ver­sial owner Mike Ash­ley to sell up.

Tues­day’s 1-0 de­feat against Tot­ten­ham in the League Cup semi-fi­nal first leg was the lat­est dis­play of at­tack­ing im­po­tence from mis­fir­ing Chelsea, who had failed to score in their last two home league games.

But it took only nine min­utes for the Blues to go in front as New­cas­tle’s five-man de­fence was carved open with ease.

A fine long pass from Chelsea de­fender David Luiz caught Clark flat-footed. Pe­dro timed his run be­hind Clark per­fectly and held off the cen­tre-back’s weak at­tempt to re­cover as he lofted a del­i­cate chip over New­cas­tle keeper Martin Dubravka for his sev­enth goal of the sea­son.

Chelsea dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion in the first half-hour, but they switched off at the back as New­cas­tle al­most snatched an equaliser. Sa­lomon Ron­don flicked a header to­wards Ay­oze Perez and he ac­cel­er­ated away from An­to­nio Rudi­ger, only to shoot woe­fully wide with just Kepa Ar­riz­a­bal­aga to beat.

Chelsea’s Wil­lian cel­e­brates scor­ing against New­cas­tle yes­ter­day.

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