Magpies make Chelsea's title blues worse
LONDON, England — Chelsea’s pain at losing their Premier League title to Manchester United was compounded by Steven Taylor’s added-time header that secured a 2-2 draw for Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge here on Sunday.
This result threw open the race for second place and ensured Chelsea, who finish the season away to Everton next weekend, failed to end their home campaign on a high.
Blues manager Carlo Ancelotti, whose position will be reviewed at the end of the season, had urged his side to bounce back after the disappointment of losing their title to United, who secured a record 19th English championship with a 1-1 draw away to Blackburn on Saturday.
But Chelsea were twice pulled back after taking the lead with Jonas Gutierrez deflecting in a Ryan Taylor free-kick to cancel out Branislav Ivanovic’s second minute opening goal and Steven Taylor replying after Alex had put the home side ahead in the 83rd minute.
United’s success had removed any lingering doubt about the outcome of the title race and ensured there would be a distinct end of season atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea returned after last weekend’s 2-1 defeat by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Ancelotti gave Fernando Torres another chance to finally kick-start his Blues career in place of Didier Drogba.
The Spain striker, who has scored just once for his new club since his January move from Liverpool, could at least claim an assist, heading on Frank Lampard’ s corner at the near post before Ivanovic bundled the ball home from close range.
With club owner Roman Abramovich watching from the stands, it looked for a brief while as though Chelsea would take the opportunity to end their home campaign in style.
The early momentum quickly disappeared, however, as Newcastle forced their way back into the game, albeit fortunately, and then settled to nullify the home side’s threat.
The visitors were helped on their way by another costly defensive error from Chelsea, mirroring their problems against United.
Alex, in for Luiz, attempted to find John Terry but underhit his pass and the Chelsea captain was forced to foul Peter Lovenkrands after the Newcastle striker nipped in, collecting a caution in the process.
Taylor lined up the resulting free kick 25 yards out and his shot found its way into Petr Cech’s net after a deflection off Gutierrez’s back wrong-footed the keeper.
Newcastle were now level with 10 minutes on the clock and they almost scored a second six minutes later when Cech spilled the ball under pressure from striker Shola Ameobi.
But neither side was able to create another first half chance of note with Chelsea’s lack of cutting edge highlighted by the laboured efforts of Torres and Nicolas Anelka.
The second half was little better although a 61st minute Taylor free-kick forced Cech to react smartly.
Ancelotti had seen enough and three minutes later the Italian made a triple substitution, introducing the old guard of Drogba, Michael Essien and Florent Malouda but to little effect until Alex headed home from Lampard’s free kick.
But Taylor’s header brought Newcastle back level and added to the pressure on Ancelotti.