JOSE Mourinho allowed himself a wry smile as he headed down the tunnel.
Mourinho, of course, had seen it all before.
But the Chelsea teams that had been beaten at St James’s Park before arguably weren’t as good as the one defeated by Newcastle United on Saturday.
Not nearly as good.
Yet Chelsea’s 23-match league and cup unbeaten run, stretching back to late April, was brought to an abrupt halt on Tyneside.
And former Newcastle loanee Loic Remy, an unused substitute for the visitors, could only watch in frustration from the bench.
It’s doubtful whether Remy will lose any sleep over the result or the boos that were directed towards him when he warmed up.
The forward – who signed a lucrative contract at Stamford Bridge in the summer – will surely win a medal or more this season.
Not many teams will beat Chelsea.
But surely Remy will miss playing at St James’s Park – which was rocking at times – every other week.
Mourinho felt his team had been “unlucky” at the stadium.
The implication was that United were lucky, yet you just don’t get lucky against Chelsea.
Mourinho’s side, initially, took the game to Newcastle.
But they didn’t take the chances that came their way, and by the half-hour mark United had got themselvs a foothold in the game.
Midfielder Jack Colback, in particular, had helped slow Chelsea.
Colback put his foot in and used the ball intelligently.
The free transfer, up against footballers worth tens of millions of pounds, frustrated Mourinho’s side, and forced a save from Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea were in for a game, and they knew it.
Maybe the sight of Rob Elliot limping off the field for the break heartened Chelsea.
Yet Newcastle, seemingly, drew more strength from the adversity of losing their goalkeeper, who was replaced by debutant Jak Alnwick.
The 21-year-old’s arrival on the pitch also meant five Geordies – Alnwick, Colback, Steven Taylor, Paul Dummett and Sammy Ameobi – started the second half.
And Alnwick quickly showed that reputations – and price tags – counted for nothing when he flattened £32m striker Diego Costa.
Then came Papiss Demba Cisse, who had scored United’s equaliser in the club’s 1-1 draw at Burnley four days earlier.
Cisse had been asked about Chelsea’s unbeaten record before he boarded the team coach that night.
Asked whether Newcastle could end the club’s remarkable run, Cisse had smiled.
“Maybe”, was his knowing reply.
It was a case of definitely, maybe for United.
And when Sammy Ameobi’s 57th-minute left-wing cross rebounded off Gary Cahill and across the face of goal, Cisse – who had come off the bench – was in the right place at the right time.
Newcastle had to defend stoutly as Chelsea pressed for an equaliser.
When they got their break, they broke with pace and purpose.
When Ayoze Perez was upended by John Obi Mikel in the 78th minute, Colback took the ball.
Colback slipped in Moussa Sissoko, who directed the ball towards Cisse as he slipped.
Cisse, no stranger to scoring against Chelsea, did the rest, stroking the ball past Courtois for his seventh goal of the campaign.
It wasn’t game over, however. Newcastle lost Steven Taylor to a second yellow card in a breathless period at St James’s Park, and visiting substitute Didier Drogba ensured a nervous finale.
But United dug in and saw out the rest of the game – and six minutes of added time – to claim all three points.
Mourinho said he had “no complaints”, but still had a dig at the ball boys and girls for perceived time wasting.
Taylor himself, of course, had once been a ball boy himself at St James’s Park.
The defender watched the final few minutes from a TV screen in the dressing room, kicking every ball as his team-mates held on.
Newcastle’s exhausted players, however, didn’t run out of energy.
But Chelsea simply ran out of time.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Elliot 6 (Alnwick, 46, 8); Janmaat 8, Coloccini 8, S Taylor 7, Dummett 7; Sissoko 7, Tiote 7, COLBACK 8; Ameobi 7 (Williamson, 83), Perez, 6, Cabella 6 (Cisse, 53, 8). Subs not used: Haidara, Anita, Gouffran, Riviere.
CHELSEA: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta (Filipe Luis, 67); Mikel, Fabregas; Willian (Drogba, 67, Oscar (Schurrle, 61), Hazard; Diego Costa. Subs not used: Cech, Zouma, Ramires, Remy.
Man of the match: Jack Colback. Got a hold of the game in midfield and pushed United forward.
Highlight: Papiss Demba Cisse’s second goal. The move typified what Newcastle were about.
Lowlight: The dismissal of Steven Taylor, who had taken one for the team to stop Andre Schurrle. Thankfully, it didn’t cost United.
Goal: Cisse 57, 78, Drogba 83
Bookings: Sissoko 48, S Taylor 56, Schurrle 64, Tiote 74, Fabregas 79, Costa 80
Sent off: S Taylor 81
Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)
Attendance: 52,019 (3,200 Chelsea)