Cloud Over Chelsea Momentarily Lifted By Kai Havertz's Heavenly First Touch
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Chelsea played its first home match since owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government and disqualified by the Premier League — leaving the club in limbo and immediately needing a new owner — on Sunday, and it was fittingly against Newcastle, which has been steadily climbing the table since its own new owners flexed their financial might in the January window.
Newcastle's away fans taunted Stamford Bridge with songs about being the richer club now and the prospect of Chelsea coming under the ownership of someone like Mike Ashley, while Blues supporters retorted that they're still champions of Europe and Newcastle is still just Newcastle (bottom half of the table).
Still, the reality is, depending on who ultimately buys Chelsea FC, the future could certainly see these two clubs essentially swapping positions. Newcastle's wealth is now limitless, whereas Abramovich's valuation of $5.2 billion for Chelsea is never going to be met.
And so while Newcastle might have more money now, the squads still reflect an entirely different reality for the time being. Eddie Howe lined up with a low block 5-4-1 and allowed the home side to take 74% possession. When your attacking threat is provided by Chris Wood, Miguel Almirón and Jacob Murphy (combined two goals in 50 appearances) you don't really have any other choice.
It was Newcastle that generated the clearest chance of the first half with Édouard Mendy denying Almirón, then the visitors had a legitimate penalty appeal waved away in the 57th minute after Trevoh Chalobah pulled back Murphy in the area with a handful of jersey before making a successful tackle.
Thomas Tuchel brought on Romelu Lukaku and Christian Pulisic, but it was Antonio Rüdiger who provided Chelsea's brightest moment of the opening hour with this piece of filth. Chris Wood literally has no idea what's going on.
Rudiger looool pic.twitter.com/OfH7B21KgO— (@mxmntex) March 13, 2022
Why's man doing this? Rudiger. pic.twitter.com/NmjJxJBrzr— AfcVIP⁴⁹ (@VipArsenal) March 13, 2022
In hindsight, that skill lit the blue touch paper for Chelsea. With only one minute remaining, Jorginho shaped an excellent ball into the area to meet the run of Kai Havertz, and the wispy, dreamlike attacker scored a personifying goal.
The German's left-footed first touch was a featherbed, and the ball bounced gently off the turf for another application of the left. Newcastle keeper Martin Dúbravka could only watch in wonder while Dan Burn was left in a crumpled heap.
Chelsea increases its hold on third — nine points above fourth-place Manchester United — and remains 10 points back of first-place Manchester City with 10 matches remaining. Newcastle sits 14th and nine points above the relegation zone.