Friday 23 March 2018

Ameobi has last word for Magpies in thriller

Chelsea 3
Newcastle 4

Shola Ameobi (unseen) heads the ball past Chelsea's goalkeeper Ross Turnbull to score the winner for Newcastle last night. Photo: Reuters
Shola Ameobi (unseen) heads the ball past Chelsea's goalkeeper Ross Turnbull to score the winner for Newcastle last night. Photo: Reuters

Henry Winter

Unbelievable. This was one of the great cup ties, a game that will shape the dreams of Newcastle United fans and stalk the sleep of Chelsea supporters.

This was an epic match finally settled when Shola Ameobi rose high in injury-time to knock Chelsea out of the Carling Cup, giving Newcastle their first success here in 23 attempts. Unforgettable.

This will hurt Chelsea deeply because they fought like lions to claw back a 3-1 deficit, playing for most of the second half with 10 men after Salomon Kalou and Yossi Benayoun departed injured.

As Chelsea count the cost of defeat, Newcastle will celebrate the prodigious evening's work of men like Ameobi, Shane Ferguson, Nile Ranger and their black-and-white-shirted company.

Newcastle's work rate was embodied by Jonas Gutierrez, who was tracking back deep into the six minutes of injury-time. In a topsy-turvy first half that saw the Toon Army initially concerned but soon chanting "ole,'' Newcastle had actually endured the worst of starts, a succession of mistakes inviting the hosts to take the lead.

Sol Campbell rose to meet a cross, little realising that Tim Krul was also intent on reaching the ball. Campbell made the header but Newcastle's keeper followed through, colliding with the former England centre-half.

Newcastle's captain, Alan Smith, was quickest to the loose ball but his distribution was deeply flawed. He laid the ball across to Ranger, who was completely caught out by its arrival. Gael Kakuta nipped in, nicking the ball and accelerating into the box.


Smith slid in, but Kakuta had seen the Newcastle captain hurtling in. Checking back, Kakuta allowed Smith to challenge fresh air. Kakuta calmly cut the ball back to Van Aanholt, whose shot flew past Krul.

So far, so expected. Football's natural order seemed to be asserting itself. Newcastle had other ideas. And so unfolded a crazy cup tie. Smith began biting into tackles in the centre, wresting control from Ramires.

Ranger started speeding down the right while Gutierrez troubled Paulo Ferreira on the other flank. Taylor's ability to deliver the ball where required brought hope. From one Taylor cross, Campbell had a free attempt at goal but he directed his header wide.

Booed by the home fans for his Arsenal and Spurs affiliations, Campbell rolled back the years to roll back a Chelsea attack. When Daniel Sturridge slid the ball down the line for Nicolas Anelka, Campbell was alert to the danger, displaying all his old sense of anticipation by sliding in to clear from under the feet of the flying Frenchman.

Pouring forward in waves one moment, Chelsea were suddenly all at sea. Confidence drained from their defence and midfield. When Shane Ferguson, Newcastle's excellent young left-back, lifted in a 26th-minute cross, Chelsea's defence froze.

Hughton's players simply wanted it more, reacting faster to the cross. Peter Lovenkrands beat Terry in the air, flicking the ball to the far post, where Ranger poached an equaliser, diving in ahead of Van Aanholt to ram the ball home.

The Bridge was stunned. The visitors sensed an upset. Now the force was with Newcastle. Ranger missed with the goal gaping. Then Fabricio Coloccini swept the ball down the middle and Ameobi was off and running, his journey towards Ross Turnbull's area halted illegally by Jeffrey Bruma.

Twenty yards out, slightly to the left of centre, this was Taylor country and the right-back thumped the ball past the wall and Turnbull.

Newcastle could have added a third even before Ameobi's strike early in the second half. Ameobi turned the ball goalwards only for Van Aanholt to clear. Bruma then executed a magnificent tackle as Ameobi threatened.

But when Ameobi came calling again, shortly after the restart, Chelsea were cut to blue ribbons. Ferreira lost possession, Ameobi advanced with the ball and Alex, who had replaced Terry, stood off. Mistake. Ameobi needed little bidding and his right-footed shot flew past Turnbull.

"Pinch me, Bob, it feels like I'm dreaming,'' shouted the radio commentator from Newcastle to his Toon legend of an analyst, Bob Moncur.

Problems mounted for Chelsea when Kalou, who had come on for Kakuta, fell to the ground holding his hamstring, and departed on a stretcher. Then Benayoun pulled up and needed to be helped from the field, leaving Chelsea down to 10.

Down in numbers, they were not down in spirit, particularly with Josh McEachran, Kalou's replacement, impressing in midfield. Willed on by their fans, Chelsea made it 3-2 through Anelka, whose response was magnificent when Van Aanholt crossed from the byeline.

The Frenchman twisted his body and brilliantly turned the ball in past Krul. Chelsea were fighting for their lives, Alex constantly storming upfield and McEachran refusing to go quietly. Anelka had a shot saved. Then Alex slipped in the area, falling in close proximity to Mike Williamson, who seemed blameless.

Phil Dowd pointed to the spot and Anelka rolled the ball home. Newcastle refused to stop believing and Ameobi rose above Alex to head in Gutierrez's corner for a famous, famous Toon victory. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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