London - A below-par Chelsea claimed first place outright in the Premier
League on Saturday by beating Newcastle United 2-0 at Stamford Bridge
through goals from Oscar and Diego Costa.
Jose Mourinho's side
were far from their best, but returned to winning ways after a
mini-slump that had seen them draw 1-1 at Southampton before being
routed 5-3 at Tottenham Hotspur.
With title rivals Manchester City
slipping up in a 1-1 draw at Everton, victory enabled Chelsea to open
up a two-point lead at the top of the table.
Back in league action
for the first time since their drubbing at White Hart Lane on New
Year's Day, Chelsea were always going to be jittery.
lost his place in central defence, with Kurt Zouma coming in, while a
finger injury to Thibaut Courtois saw Petr Cech deputise between the
Having seen their eight-point advantage wiped away by
defending champions City in recent weeks, Chelsea have to do it all over
again, but they were off the pace in the first half.
routine passes went astray and Newcastle, with John Carver taking
caretaker control following Alan Pardew's exit, appeared to have their
own point to prove.
The warning signs were there for Chelsea as the Remy Cabella saw his shot deflected just wide off John Terry.
Cech then just beat out Yoan Gouffran's powerful free-kick to safety.
can slide through the gears to hit sides when they least expect it, but
they squandered an opportunity in the 21st minute when Costa elected to
pass rather than shoot after a three-on-one attack. It summed up the
hosts' start.The lively Cabella force another low save out of Cech, and Chelsea appeared to be hanging on.
Sissoko came even closer following another swift counter-attack, the
Frenchman hitting the outside of the post with a powerful shot in the
31st minute after skipping past Terry.
Newcastle risked paying the price for not taking their chances and so it proved as Oscar drew first blood in the 43rd minute.
It was self-inflicted from Newcastle's point of view as they switched off at a corner and were duly punished.
Willian's pass found Branislav Ivanovic and his low cross was turned in by Oscar at the far post.
leading, Chelsea continued to struggle to get going in the second half,
but a moment of quality saw Costa extend their lead with 59 minutes
Hazard and Oscar combined, with the Brazilian's back-heel
allowing Costa to find room and drill home past Tim Krul for his 15th
Premier League goal of the season.
It was out of keeping with
Chelsea's performance, but being able to turn it on when it most
matters, like they have done on several occasions this season,
underlined why they are the title favourites.
dropped off the pace by this point and a rare foray forward saw Sammy
Ameobi's mishit cross force Cech to backtrack and tip the ball over the
But Chelsea were now in cruise control. Costa had a glorious
chance to kill off Newcastle for good, but the Spain international's
scuffed shot was cleared off the line by Fabricio Coloccini.