Chelsea come from two goals down to earn a point at Newcastle
Published 26/09/2015 | 19:35
Substitutes Ramires and Willian got Chelsea out of jail as they fought back from 2-0 down at Newcastle to snatch a point.
Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum had left the reigning Barclays Premier League champions looking at a fourth successive defeat at St James' Park, but the Brazilian duo came off the bench to claim a 2-2 draw as Steve McClaren came within four minutes of a first league win of his reign.
It was tough on the Magpies, who turned in their best performance of the campaign to date, but even the most one-eyed of home fans could not deny that the visitors deserved something for their efforts after launching a concerted fightback.
Nevertheless, Jose Mourinho's men find themselves nine points adrift of new leaders Manchester United after an uncharacteristically mixed start to the season.
Few of the 48,682 who turned up at St James' Park expected anything other than a comfortable away win given the quality of the opposition and the demoralising run of four defeats on the back of which McClaren's men went into the game.
The former England boss had warned that the change he is trying to implement would be painful and slow, but he must have been delighted with what he saw during a pulsating contest.
Newcastle were simply unrecognisable from the disorganised and toothless rabble which had succumbed in such tame fashion to Watford a week earlier and even more horrendously, to Sheffield Wednesday's reserves in midweek.
They had to defend and defend well with youngster Kevin Mbabu making his league debut in the unaccustomed role of left-back as Chelsea moved the ball confidently and counter-attacked at blistering place.
But with Aleksandar Mitrovic, fresh back from his three-game ban, giving the Magpies a focal point, the likes of Vurnon Anita, Perez and Wijnaldum were revitalised.
Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma blasted a fourth-minute free-kick wide and striker Loic Remy turned a driven Branislav Ivanovic cross just wide of Tim Krul's left post.
But as they grew in confidence, the home side started to make an impact and Asmir Begovic was forced into saves from Perez and Daryl Janmaat in quick succession.
It took a flying save from Krul to keep out Cesc Fabregas' 38th-minute piledriver and Pedro headed wastefully across goal after climbing high at the far post, but the opening goal eventually came at the other end with three minutes of the half remaining.
Perez managed to get himself in between Zouma and Ivanovic and Anita crossed from deep and when the Chelsea pair inexplicably failed to intervene, the striker cushioned the ball before volleying it past the helpless Begovic.
Newcastle extended their lead on the hour from a set-piece when Wijnaldum was allowed to meet Perez's corner unchallenged and head firmly past Begovic's despairing dive.
But Ramires ensured a tense conclusion when he thumped a 25-yard drive into Krul's top corner with 11 minutes remaining, and after Pedro had wasted a glorious opportunity to level, Willian deceived Krul with a curling free-kick to snatch a draw with four minutes remaining.
The visitors might have emerged with all three points had Krul not clawed out Ramires' 89th-minute header, but that would have been cruel.
TWEETS OF THE MATCH
"@MarioMelchiot: Ramires rocked woke me up. William's delivery made me smile. Krul spoiled the party with a great safe on Ramires header. #mmlove #CFC" -Blues favourite Mario Melchiot shows some love to his former side after a dramatic fightback
"@alanshearer: Gutted at the end! But see what happens when you work hard and put in the effort?! Well done. Keep it up #NUFC" - Toon legend Alan Shearer was pleased to see an improved performance from his side.
Tim Krul: 7 (out of 10)
Daryl Janmaat: 7
Fabricio Coloccini: 7
Chancel Mbemba: 8
Kevin Mbabu: 7
Jack Colback: 7
Vurnon Anita: 8
Georginio Wijnaldum: 8
Moussa Sissoko: 6
Ayoze Perez: 9
Aleksandar Mitrovic: 6
Gabriel Obertan (on 53): 5
Ivan Toney (on 84): 5
Siem De Jong (on 90) -
Asmir Begovic: 7
Branislav Ivanovic: 5
Kurt Zouma: 4
Gary Cahill: 6
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7
Cesc Fabregas: 6
Nemanja Matic: 5
Eden Hazard: 7
Loic Remy: 6
Willian (on 60): 7
Radamel Falcao (on 60): 6
Ramires (on 72): 9
Ayoze Perez: Despite fading a little in the second half, the Spaniard set the tone for a brave performance by the hosts with his tireless early probing of the Chelsea rearguard. Brought a fine save out of Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic before firing home the opener, and also produced the inch-perfect corner from which Georginio Wijnaldum scored the home side's second.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Substitute Ramires hauled Chelsea out of a potential crisis after his late introduction, firing an unstoppable shot past Tim Krul to bring his side back into the game, and also playing his part in deceiving the keeper as Willian's free-kick dribbled in for the equaliser.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Jose Mourinho's relief was evident after his late substitutions turned the tide of the match but the late success will not match a dreadfully underwhelming first half performance from the champions. Meanwhile Newcastle boss Steve McClaren cut a frustrating figure after seeing his side fail to hang on for the first win he must have felt they so richly deserved.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Maybe he was still brooding over the retrospective ban handed to Diego Costa this week. But neither that not his side's poor start at St James's Park could really justify the utterly morose figure the Portuguese "Special One" cut during his fleeting appearances on the touchline.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Manchester City v Newcastle (Premier League, Saturday October 3)
FC Porto v Chelsea (Champions League, Tuesday September 29)
Newcastle manager Steve McLaren was pleased to see such a dramatic improvement in performance following the midweek loss in the Capital One Cup.
In the end, he was pleased with a point despite coming so close to the win. "(We were) so close to a great win, and then you think at 2-2 with five minutes to go you could still lose it as the momentum had swung," he told Sky Sports.
"In the end, the way we played an responded after this week, to a man, their attitudes were excellent and I thought the crowd responded to that.
"We looked a team today. That was more like it."
He added: "That's the benchmark in terms of attitude and what you need to give the crowd. I wish we'd have won as the belief would have really risen but today will help."
His opposite number, Jose Mourinho, criticised his players after making a sluggish start.
"I think in the first half, from 0-10, we were -1," he said. "In the second half we played very well.
"Ramires and Willian moved the game and brought more intensity that Newcastle couldn't cope with. The second half was really good.
"I knew after the second goal we wouldn't get the goal as I know what Newcastle wanted and what kind of referee Mr. Atkinson is. He stops the game, speaks too much and that would be difficult."
He added: "I have to try to understand why one team can play so bad in one half and so well in other.
"The first half was really bad in every aspect of the game. Poor in individual performances and as a result of that, impossible for a team to be a good, competitive team."