By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 1v Newcastle Utd 0
Kai Havertz scored the last minute winner that sent the home crowd into delirium on a day that will be etched into the minds of Chelsea fans forever.
The German latched onto the ball, took one touch from close-range and slotted it past Martin Dubravka in the last minute to give the Blues all three points against Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge.
With the club in turmoil, and looking at their future on a day-to-day basis, following government sanctions on the club brought about by owner Roman Abramovich’s association with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through his links with it’s President Putin, there was much relief from the players and staff when the ball hit the back of the net.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel raced down the side of the pitch, and the players even did a near lap of honour after the game to thank the fans.
It was an extraordinary occasion. The football was rubbish by contrast, with Newcastle content to elk out a draw.
But like the women who won their league match in added time against Aston Villa an hour earlier, the club doesn’t know when it is beaten, and that attitude will be needed more in the coming days and weeks and they search for ways to complete the season.
A thunderbolt by Andreas Christensen on three minutes inched over Matin Dubravka’s crossbar as the Blues started on the front foot.
But Newcastle, by plying five at the back soon neutralised any serious attacking threat from the hime side and slowly worked their way into the game.
The Toon’s first effort on goal, of sorts fell to Jacob Murphy who took advantage of Trevoh Chalobah’s giveaway ball after being put under pressure.
But the wide player’s shot well wide on 19 minutes.
Chelsea’s inability to get past the Newcastle defence, Timo Werner the main culprit by straying needlessly into offside, saw them to retreat slightly to retain possession.
Toni Rudiger, sensing a different tactic was needed, went on a trademark lung-busting long run – he won a corner for his effort.
Mason Mount crashed a free-kick into the side netting while at the other end a glancing header by Dan Burn almost saw the opening goal.
Kai Havertz was yellow-carded for a jump at Burn. The German did lead with his elbow and Burn pointed his finger in anger at Havertz as he left the pitch.
A wonderful left-footed volley by Miguel Almiron forced Mendy into a brilliant save on the stroke of half-time.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
With Chelsea effectively going nowhere, head coach Thomas Tuchel decided charges were needed and on came striker Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Mateo Kovacic, but not before Werner had the indignity of racing clear, getting hacked down by Dubravka, thinking he had a penalty but rewarded with an offside instead.
Chelsea even fouled up their substitution, with Havertz number shown instead of Mount for Kovacic. Eventually they got it right after Tuchel stopped Havertz leaving the pitch. Werner, less surprisingly came off for Lukaku.
Havertz almost put the Blues ahead on 75 mo utes when he latched onto a in-swing cross from Hakim Ziyech. But the German’s header, wasn’t powerful nor directed sufficiently wide of Dubravka.
Tuchel soon made his third substitution, taking off left-back Malang Sarr for winger Christian Pulisic.
A minute from time, the non-Newcastle side of 40,028 crowd went wild.
Havertz latched onto the ball, took his touch and caressed the ball home to score the winner.
He hit the crossbar deep into added time. But it was inconsequential to the overall sense of delight that will have lifted the players staff and supporters as the final whistle was blown.
Teams: Chelsea, Mendy, Chalobah, Rudiger, Ziyech, Kante, Jorginho, Sarr, Mount, Werner, Havertz
Subs: Kepa, Alonso, Silva, Kovacic, Lukaku, Pulisic, Loftus-Cheek, Saul, Barkley
Newcastle, Dubravka, Schar, Lascelles, Targett, Manquillo, Wood, Murphy, Almiron, Burn, Longstaff, Guimaraes.
Subs: Darlow, Gillespie, Dummett, Saint-Maximin, Richie, Krafts, Fraser, Gayle, De Bolle.