Saturday 1 October 2016

McClaren faces battle after clinical Chelsea plunge Toon into drop zone

Chelsea 5 Newcastle Utd 1

Dominic Fifield

Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30

Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas in action with Newcastle United's Georginio Wijnaldum. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters
Newcastle United's Steven Taylor looks dejected. Photo: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters

It takes performances as pathetic as this to drain all the optimism generated by a lavish mid-season outlay on attacking talent. Newcastle looked a depressingly dysfunctional side here, a team devoid of defensive steel as they crumpled obligingly to present Guus Hiddink with a first league win at home in his second spell as Chelsea's interim manager.

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Subsiding in these parts might not normally be cause for huge alarm, but the champions have not been permitted to purr like this all season.

Newcastle were feeble, their first-half performance in particular an invitation to demotion, and, if Chelsea lost interest at times as thoughts drifted to Paris and the Champions League, a sixth successive away defeat in all competitions will have Steve McClaren fretting. His side have returned to the bottom three and Sunderland, local rivals on an upward curve, are breathing down their necks.

Newcastle had been sloppy from the outset, the contest surrendered early and the agony prolonged with every home attack thereafter to make a mockery of McClaren's bold pre-match suggestion that he would be dissatisfied at merely returning to Tyneside with a point.

It was the lack of defensive discipline which took the breath away, whether the eye was drawn to Cheik Tiote's dawdling in midfield while markers ran off him at ease, or to centre-halves who appeared to be ploughing through a quagmire as home players skipped across the surface at pace.

They had been punctured by Chelsea's first attack of any significance, Willian gliding away from his marker just inside the Newcastle half and then sliding a pass inside the hapless Fabricio Coloccini to infiltrate a ragged backline. Diego Costa held off Steven Taylor and clipped a first-time shot back across the onrushing Rob Elliot, which dribbled into the corner. The goal was Costa's seventh in eight Premier League games; if Hiddink's team are to prosper against Paris Saint-Germain in Europe over the next few weeks, then the forward must retain that bite.

Not that much was needed to wound these opponents. Newcastle were split apart with every forward pass, as Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro Rodriguez left them dizzied with their sprightly approach play. The zip had been restored to Chelsea's style, the locals sensing fragility in McClaren's ranks.

Rolando Aarons, a winger filling in unconvincingly at left-back for Newcastle, was culpable for the second after the visitors' attacking free-kick had been hooked back to the halfway line. The 20-year-old misplaced his pass, notionally aimed towards Daryl Janmaat, Pedro collecting and scurrying away while the Dutch international crumpled to the turf in disbelief. By the time he had picked himself up, Pedro had converted crisply from just outside the penalty area.

Those on the visitors' bench shrunk at the concession, though their pain was far from complete. The ease with which Costa outpaced Coloccini, then cut back inside to slide a pass across the area for Willian to score a third, was disturbing. Tiote had allowed the Brazilian the freedom of Stamford Bridge.

Pedro, Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry should have added to the lead, while Elliot did well to turn aside a Willian free-kick. Chelsea's only concern was the premature departure of their captain after a tussle with Aleksandar Mitrovic, the centre-half suggesting discomfort in his right thigh. PSG will have drawn encouragement from that.

Newcastle did not. McClaren's attempt to instil some fight saw Georginio Wijnaldum substituted for Jack Colback, but no team this slack at the back can hope to resist. All it took was Cesc Fabregas' lofted pass, arcing over Taylor, to open them up again. Pedro darted in behind the centre-half, collected on his chest and dispatched a fourth beyond Elliot. The fifth was just as simple, the substitute Bertrand Traore sliding in a first Premier League goal from Cesar Azpilicueta's delivery. Andros Townsend's late reply meant nothing.

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