Newcastle United 1 Chelsea 2: Injured Jamaal Lascelles sees team cruelly denied by late own goal
No Jamaal Lascelles. No Jonjo Shelvey. And no Kenedy.
Some Newcastle United fans feared the worst when they saw Rafa Benitez’s teamsheet.
Yet but for a late own goal, Benitez’s side would have taken a point home from St James’s Park, where Lascelles and Shelvey watched from the stands.
They were left out because of injuries, according to the club, though Lascelles, United’s captain, had rowed with Benitez ahead of the fixture, which Chelsea won 2-1 thanks to a penalty from Eden Hazard and an own goal from DeAndre Yedlin.
Lascelles’ team-mates followed Benitez’s instructions to the letter, and Newcastle supporters left the stadium having seen their depleted team fight for every ball on a miserable Tyneside afternoon.
And they left with some hope of brighter days to come.
Hours before the game, United fans, angered by a lack of investment in the team and the club, protested against owner Mike Ashley outside Sport Direct’s store on a sodden Northumberland Street.
They called on Ashley to go. The billionaire, however, is seemingly going nowhere fast,
The rain was still coming down at St James’s Park when Benitez named his team.
Benitez, also without the ineligible loanee Kenedy, handed competitive debuts to Federico Fernandez, Fabian Schar and Ki Sung-yueng, while Salomon Rondon started up front for the first time.
Fernandez and Schar were part of a five-man defence.
Midfielder Sean Longstaff, 20, was named as a substitute bench along with 22-year-old defender Jamie Sterry after impressing in pre-season.
Chelsea, meanwhile, had Olivier Giroud, Willian and Ross Barkley, among others, on their bench.
The visiting team had been assembled at huge expense. Goalkeeper Kepa Azzizabalaga alone cost £71.6million.
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United’s team, by contrast, had been put together at little expense, at least by Premier League standards.
Newcastle, captained by Paul Dummett, tried to be positive. Jacob Murphy had an early shot at goal.
Chelsea, though, moved the ball well in the opposition half, and where Newcastle’s players were strung along the pitch every time they lost the ball.
Rondon, isolated at the other end of the pitch, had to hold the ball up for longer than he would presumably have liked whenever it was punted in his direction.
Still, United, disciplined and organised, kept going. And, for all Chelsea’s possession, they didn’t have a shot on target until late in the first half.
United went into the break buoyed by their first-half performance.
Hazard had threatened time and again before the break, and he drifted all over the pitch in the second half
A flagging Rondon was replaced by Joselu, and Ayoze Perez came on for Jacob Murphy.
Then Chelsea got their breakthrough. Schar brought down Marcus Alonso in the box, and referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot.
Hazard confidently beat Martin Dubravka from the penalty spot. Newcastle, however, weren’t finished. Yedlin knocked over Chelsea substitute Giroud before delivering a cross from the right which was superbly headed home at the near post by Joselu in the 84th minute.
The visiting team’s winner, which came off Yedlin’s outstretched boot, was cruel.
Newcastle pushed for another equaliser, but they just ran out of time.