Miles Starforth's match analysis: Chelsea 3 Newcastle United 1

Rafa Benitez likes winning. And he hates losing.

Monday, 4th December 2017, 11:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:52 am
Chelseas Eden Hazard scores his sides third goal from the penalty spot deceiving Karl Darlow in the Newcastle United goal.

Far better Newcastle United teams have suffered far heavier defeats against worse Chelsea sides in the Premier League era.

But that was no consolation to Benitez as he spoke to a small huddle of journalists long after the final whistle on Saturday.

Newcastle had been in the game until the 74th minute.

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That was went Eden Hazard put the game beyond United with a chipped penalty after Matt Ritchie brought down Victor Moses.

Hazard’s penalty gave Chelsea a 3-1 win and left United 15th in the Premier League.

Benitez, back at Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving the club in 2013, had his back against a wall as he talked to reporters deep inside the stadium.

Newcastle had had their backs against the walls on the pitch for spells, but they’d also played a bit too.

Benitez, using a 5-4-1 formation, had made five changes for the game. De Andre Yedlin and Joselu were among those left out of the starting XI.

In came Dwight Gayle, Mohamed Diame, Javier Manquillo, Karl Darlow and Chancel Mbemba.

And they started well. They had moved the ball quickly and positively in the final third of the pitch, though Gayle’s 12th-minute goal was the result of a hopeful ball forward from Florian Lejeune which Chelsea failed to clear.

Gayle, just as he did at Old Trafford a fortnight earlier, found the net with a neat finish.

Antonio Conte’s champions fought back strongly, and Darlow, making only his second Premier League appearance of the season, denied Hazard and clattered into Alvaro Morata, signed for £58million in the summer.

Andreas Christensen also struck the post.

Newcastle’s lead only lasted nine minutes.

Cesar Azpilicueta fired in a diagonal ball from the right and Lejeune lunged to clear it. Unfortunately, the clearance dropped perfectly for Hazard, who drove a shot past Darlow.

Then came a second goal.

Victor Moses had enough space on the right to deliver a cross for Morata, who was behind two Newcastle defenders. He stooped and headed past Darlow.

Chelsea were seemingly in complete control, but they couldn’t get a third goal, and United, slowly, regained the confidence they had shown in the early stages of the game.

And Newcastle were still in it until Ritchie slid in and fouled Moses with just over a quarter of an hour left.

Hazard chipped Darlow and that was that.

United, unlike in previous years, hadn’t been embarrassed by an outstanding Chelsea team.

Hazard, in particular, was superb.

But Benitez had wanted more.

United’s manager bemoaned the first-half mistakes which led to their goals.

“Nobody was expecting that we could do well here, but we did well for a while,” said Benitez.

“We were doing what we wanted to do for some minutes, but it was the same as against Manchester United.

“If you make one mistake and you concede, you have to carry on, but we made another mistake and conceded another goal.

“Still, we were in the game for a while, but the next mistake we paid for that.”

Newcastle have paid for a lot of mistakes already this season.

Benitez feels he can improve his players, but, ultimately, £5million defenders make few mistakes than those who cost tens of millions of pounds.

The 57-year-old is used to going to stadiums like Stamford Bridge to win games, not limiting the damage. But we are where we are.

And United now must do some damage of their own in the home games against Leicester City and Everton.