For 75 minutes Chelsea had the ball and Newcastle lined up in a 5-4-1 formation, defending for their lives.
Then, the game sprung into life with plenty of late controversy at St James’ Park on Sunday.
Chelsea left with a 2-1 victory, but were the Blues lucky? You could say that both Chelsea and Newcastle were feeling a little hard done by at the full time whistle as a banged up Magpies squad didn’t have the ball often but frustrated Chelsea throughout.
Maurizio Sarri, who now has three wins from three as Chelsea’s boss looked unimpressed by Newcastle’s negative tactics as they had just 19 percent possession throughout.
“I have never seen a Rafa Benitez side play with five defenders,” Sarri said. “I think it is very difficult to play here for every team – not only us. We were a bit unlucky when they scored to make it 1-1.”
First up: a huge moment of controversy arrived as Marcos Alonso surged into the box and won a penalty kick, although Fabian Schar looked to have got the ball with his challenge and a piece of Alonso too.
It was certainly a harsh call on a Newcastle defense who had been so tough to break down, but Alonso didn’t think so.
“I think I touched the ball and got in front of the opponent,” Alonso told Sky Sports. “It’s not that I felt the contact and went down, he made me. It was a good win and the three points are massive for us.”
Then came another huge moment of controversy as USMNT and Newcastle right back DeAndre Yedlin appeared to shove Olivier Giroud (unintentionally) but no free kick was given and he sent in a wonderful cross for Joselu to head home an equalizer.
You could say Yedlin was lucky to not have conceded a free kick but moments later he was very unlucky indeed. Alonso’s shot across goal from a free kick was heading wide but under pressure from Ross Barkley behind him, he knocked the ball into his own goal.
Speaking about the big calls, Newcastle’s manager Rafael Benitez (who was missing five key players for the clash) didn’t believe the result was fair on his team.
“The penalty was soft. The foul was soft [for the free-kick for the winner]. It’s a pity because we were very close,” Benitez said. “We knew playing open against them, with their ability, they can beat players. We needed to be compact, maybe we could frustrate them into mistakes and we’d have chances. The penalty changed everything and we had to be open.”