Sometimes you win handsomely, sometimes you have to grind out a result. Chelsea’s 1-0 win against Newcastle at the Bridge fell firmly into the second category.
With Frank Lampard and ‘Stephen Roger Bruce’, as the teamsheet rather formally referred to the Magpies’ manager, urging their sides on from the dugout after a goalless first half, it was the Blues who turned on the turbo-chargers to grab all three points in a pretty evenly matched encounter.
“The second half was the most pleasing thing [about today],” said Lampard afterwards. “It was a good test for us today. We changed things a little in the second half and we showed a little more flexibility and creativity.”
The critical change was pushing Mason Mount further forward from midfield, to play much more closely alongside front striker Tammy Abraham.
It seemed to open up spaces in midfield that allowed Chelsea to turn their possession dominance into more purposeful forays upfield, resulting in a serious upturn in chances created.
The one downside of a first half which saw the teams puff and pant but to no real effect was an injury to Ross Barkley. With less than five minutes to go before the interval he limped off, having turned his ankle.
But after the break, in front of 40,513 fans, Chelsea stepped up a gear, winning a succession of corners. Abraham hit the bar with a header in the 56th minute, while Fikayo Tomori’s bicycle kick flew wide.
Finally, after the introduction of the patient Christian Pulisic for Mont in the 64th minute, another flurry of chances finally led to the solitary deciding goal.
In the 74th minute, Callum Hudson-Odoi teed up Marcos Alonso on the left of Newcastle’s box, and the left back unleashed a rocket which finally beat Martin Dubravka.
Then it was simply a case of holding on and ensuring that (with Andy Carroll back in attack in the second half) Newcastle didn’t have any serious openings.
“We were upbeat, we had urgency, the tempo was good, and that got us the win,” said Lamps. “Our combinations were good, we played between the lines more, people were going one-v-one – Callum Hudson-Odoi, Willian and Christian Pulisic when he came on – and it should have been more goals to make the last 10 minutes more comfortable.
“We want to score goals. You can see the fans – I think they’re happy with what they’re seeing at the moment. We want more. If we want to keep moving up, we can do better. So far this season, though, things are going well.”
On Barkley’s injury, the manager confirmed it was an ankle twist which would need further assessment ahead of the Blues’ expedition to Holland in the Champions League this coming week.
Lampard was also pleased for Pulisic, who had a good performance as sub. “He’s a hot topic because of the price tag and his status with his national team,” said the manager. “But he has just turned 21 and it is good to see him play like he did today; there is more to come. He should feel good about today because he was a big part of us winning.”
Steve Bruce commented: “Chelsea have a nice blend of youth and experience at the moment. We didn’t weather the storm in the second half.”