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Batshuayi left feeling blue as double strike fails to impress Conte

Chelsea 3 Newcastle United 0

Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Ben Rumsby

He scored his 18th and 19th goals in just 18 Chelsea starts and his 10th in 10 this season yesterday, but Michy Batshuayi still faces being dispatched on loan before the transfer window closes.

With just three more days of January player trading remaining, Batshuayi's man-of-the-match performance against Newcastle was the perfect opportunity for Antonio Conte to declare that the Belgian was going nowhere this month.

The fact he did not do so reinforced the impression Chelsea's manager simply refuses to trust the striker to lead the line in his side's games of note, having preferred Eden Hazard up front in last Wednesday's League Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal.

The official line from Conte yesterday remained that he would be "happy" were the 24-year-old to stay - even if he completed the signing of Edin Dzeko or another target man before Wednesday's 11pm deadline - and that three strikers was the "minimum" required.

Conte also declared it was down to the player to ask to leave, with Batshuayi desperate for regular football in order to secure a place in Belgium's World Cup squad amid fierce competition.

Speaking about a player he claimed had "a lot of space for improvement", Conte said: "If the club decides to add another player then I don't know if Michy wants to stay or to go on loan. In this case, it would be a player decision, not my decision."

Chelsea's Marcos Alonso scores their third goal from a free kick. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Chelsea's Marcos Alonso scores their third goal from a free kick. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

If he does stay, Batshuayi might not even get to start Wednesday's Premier League game against Bournemouth, with Conte revealing that Alvaro Morata would resume training today following his back injury.

Scoring with his first two shots on target yesterday, Batshuayi certainly proved that, for all Conte's complaints that seem destined to end the Italian's time at Chelsea, he is still able to field a side for which the likes of Newcastle have no answer.

Indeed, with Marcos Alonso also cracking in a trademark free-kick, it was easy to come away from the game with the impression that everything was fine and well at Stamford Bridge.

That is far from the case but at least Conte comfortably avoided a second cup exit inside five days and kept alive the prospect of what could prove his last match in charge in May's FA Cup final.

Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie in action with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie in action with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

It is almost 12 years since Rafael Benitez's sole FA Cup triumph, with Liverpool, and his decision to change half his outfield line-up here suggested it was always destined to become 13.

Yet, there was none of the parking the bus by Benitez that so blighted Newcastle's recent defeats against Manchester City.

Sensing Chelsea were there for the taking following the defeat to Arsenal that drove a further wedge between Conte and his board, Benitez's players barely gave them a moment's peace.

They forced mistake after mistake and, when Massadio Haidara glided past Davide Zappacosta down the left and crossed for Jonjo Shelvey in the 25th minute, Willy Caballero was required to repel a near-post volley.

But the visitors were undone six minutes later. Pedro played a defence-splitting 40-yard pass perfectly into Hazard's path and he in turn found Alonso, who set up Batshuayi for an simple finish.

The goal failed to settle Chelsea, but it was simply not Newcastle's day and Pedro, Hazard and Batshuayi combined again a minute before the break with another lightning raid that saw the latter's finish loop up off Jamaal Lascelles and into the net.

And after Shelvey and Ciaran Clark were both denied again by the excellent Caballero, Alonso killed he game off with wonderful free-kick 18 minutes from time that left Karl Darlow clutching at air.

Irish Independent

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