Chelsea put their recent Newcastle misery to bed with an accomplished 2-0 victory against the manager-less Magpies.
The Blues have lost both of their last two away games against Newcastle and one of the last three when playing them at home, but had much better fate with Alan Pardew leaving the Toon, with Oscar and Costa settling the tie.
It puts Chelsea two points clear of Manchester City as Pellegrini’s side slip up in a simultaneous match at Everton.
But no-one was to know during the game, and Chelsea definitely did not realise the danger in the first half. Mourinho has stuck, by and large, with the same starting eleven all season but squad rotation was needed here: after five conceded at Tottenham, Cahill and Courtois were the fall guys as Cech and Zouma came into the fray.
Neither disappointed. Mourinho complained from the fifth minute about Newcastle’s time-wasting and it set the tone for the first half, but they did have the better of the opening exchanges. Cabella’s strike was a certain goal but for Cech’s save, but he had his goal-frame to thank for stopping Sissoko putting the visitors ahead.
Azpilicueta’s injury was making Mourinho’s first half worse but that changed two minutes before the break. Oscar, who perhaps does not shine as much as he should, slotted home from Willian’s corner, but it was very much a case of being second best. They do say the mark of champions is when you can win when not playing your best.
That lead was doubled when Costa scored from Oscar’s flick on just before the hour mark, and that settled Chelsea. At least we are not top on something more than alphabetical order.
Man of the Match
PETR CECH: Perhaps this is more out of sentiment but you have to love Big Pete. Totally rejected all season but thoroughly professional and comes in with immense experience against a tricky side. For all Chelsea attacking flair, it only all got going in the second half, and thus you simply cannot underestimate the save made from Cabella in the first half. Had Chelsea been chasing the game, it may have been less fluid and more desperate. But Oscar was great too, once it got going. 7/10
Steve Holland spoke as Mourinho is still incensed over his FA fine: “The two halves were different. You have to give credit to Newcastle. We didn’t play so well but got the breakthrough. The team was much better in the second half and controlled the game, playing some good football around their box.”
Newcastle’s caretaker manager John Carver spoke: “When we got here, people said we would park the bus. We didn’t do that, we created some great chances but switching off just before half-time is a cardinal sin.”