Thursday 17 August 2017

Injuries add to Pardew's woes

Newcastle Utd 0
Chelsea 3

Luke Edwards

ALAN Pardew gained little comfort from referee Mike Dean's apology for failing to dismiss Chelsea defender David Luiz as Newcastle's first home defeat of the season was soured further by the loss of both his first-choice centre-backs.

It is the perfect storm Newcastle have feared drifting into ever since the transfer window shut without a fourth centre-back on the books and a small squad is starting to show signs of strain.

That Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor have been Newcastle's best players this season is bad enough, but the fact Pardew is still without Mike Williamson -- his only other senior specialist centre-back -- because of a long-term ankle injury, means there is a huge gap in the middle of defence and dubious means to fill it.

Taylor will not play again this season after he tore his Achilles tendon, while captain Coloccini will be fortunate to play again this year after he limped off with a thigh strain.

Newcastle gave a good account of themselves and they should have been playing against 10 men for the majority of the game. Luiz was the last defender when he stopped Demba Ba's run in on goal, but the Brazilian was only punished with a yellow card.

"I have got no problem with the referee yesterday, he made a mistake," said Pardew. "Actually, he has since, after the game, seen it again and said to me, 'I made a mistake, he should have been sent off'.

"At half-time yesterday, his opinion was different, but his opinion would have been altered if his assistant referee had done his job.

"When I saw the referee at half-time, I said, 'Why did you not send him off?'. He said to me, 'He didn't have control of the ball'. Well, how can you have control of the ball when the guy is knocking you over?"

The fact Newcastle's superb young goalkeeper, Tim Krul, was Man of the Match gives an indication of how often they opened up the defence, but the game was in the balance until two minutes from the end when Soloman Kalou added a second goal and Daniel Sturridge a third in injury-time.

Nevertheless, there was much for Andre Villas-Boas to be pleased with. He could even afford to see Frank Lampard miss a penalty when Krul turned his shot on to the post.

Chelsea just about deserved the three points, but they will not find a left-back as easy to expose as Ryan Taylor when they take on Valencia at home tomorrow. They must win or eke out a goalless draw to progress -- while any faint hopes they still harbour of providing competition to Manchester City are likely to hinge on beating them next Monday.

It is a daunting prospect but at least Villas-Boas will enter those two decisive games buoyed by Saturday's win and a glowing tribute from Drogba, one of the senior dressing-room figures who traditionally hold the fate of Chelsea managers in their hands.

"Everything is coming together for the manager," said Drogba. "You have to remember it is his first season in the Premier League, it's not easy for him and it isn't easy for the players.

"Yes, we have been in a difficult moment, but you have to stick together and make sure, when we are on the pitch, we are all pulling in the same direction. That's what we are doing right now and it's great to see." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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