Newcastle United reclaimed third place in the Premier League in their final game before the World Cup break with a narrow 1-0 win over Chelsea.
Eddie Howe’s side have been flying in recent weeks and find themselves in an unlikely push for European qualification as the season nears the midway point.
Chelsea, meanwhile, seem to have hit a wall under new manager Graham Potter and had suffered several damaging defeats in their last few games, giving this one the feeling of a must-win fixture for the Blues.
It was as insipid and uninspiring a first half as you’re likely to see in the Premier League all season, with the main talking point coming after just five minutes when Ruben Loftus-Cheek was forced off through injury.
The remainder of the half was a stop-start affair, with neither side able to get into a rhythm. Newcastle began to take control of possession as the half wore on, but went in at the break with little to show for it.
It wasn’t until the second half that these two sides started to come to life, Newcastle going close five minutes after the restart when Edouard Mendy saved from Miguel Almiron and Sean Longstaff fired over from close range.
Chelsea offered precious little in attack, and had no chances of note until 25 minutes from time when Conor Gallagher forced an excellent save from Nick Pope.
Moments later, the cagey affair finally saw its first goal – and it was the Magpies with reason to celebrate thanks to a glimpse of real quality. Almiron tied the Chelsea defence in knots with a mazy run from the halfway line, before cutting inside to open up the angle for a shot.
The Paraguayan was closed down by defenders, but managed to bring the ball into the path of the oncoming Joe Willock, who released a sumptuous strike from the edge of the area to give his side the lead.
As time ticked on, what was truly striking was Chelsea’s complete lack of attacking impetus. Potter’s side looked devoid of inspiration and ideas at St. James’ Park, and deservedly came out on the losing side of this contest.
Victory means Newcastle will hold a precious third place spot in the Premier League table come its return on Boxing Day, while Chelsea languish in eighth.
GK: Nick Pope – 7/10 – He’ll have busier games, but his save from Conor Gallagher was a pivotal moment today.
RB: Kieran Trippier – 8/10 – Trippier might only be England’s first choice right-back at this moment because of injuries, but he’s really starting to look the part for Newcastle. Another assured performance today.
CB: Fabian Schar – 8/10 – Another great performance by Schar, who has formed a promising partnership with Botman in recent weeks.
CB: Sven Botman – 8/10 – A really assured, confident display from the Dutch defender, who was a big part of the reason why Chelsea looked so blunt in attack.
LB: Dan Burn – 7/10 – Well, Chelsea didn’t manage to get any joy down Newcastle’s left flank – but maybe that was just because they lined up with Loftus-Cheek and Gallagher down that side. Lightwork for Burn.
CDM: Bruno Guimaraes – 6/10 – This was not vintage Bruno by any means, but we were still treated to a few silky touches by the Brazilian.
CM: Sean Longstaff – 6/10 – A lot of water carrying for Longstaff today, with very little of note happening in the game that involved him.
CM: Joe Willock – 8/10 – What. A. Goal. A simply gorgeous strike from Willock, who proved to be the match winner for his side today.
RW: Miguel Almiron – 7/10 – Probably his poorest game in over a month, but still looked a threat for Newcastle and set up Willock for the winning goal. Not bad.
LW: Joelinton – 7/10 – His physical presence and constant industry made him a thorn in Chelsea’s side throughout.
ST: Chris Wood – 6/10 – Looked more than a little out of place and struggled to provide his side with an attacking outlet.
SUB: Callum Wilson – 6/10
SUB: Jacob Murphy – N/A
SUB: Matt Targett – N/A
MANAGER: Eddie Howe – 7/10 – Not sure if this was really a masterclass by Howe or if Chelsea just didn’t turn up, but it was a good day for the Newcastle gaffer regardless.
GK: Edouard Mendy – 6/10 – Made a good save from Almiron, but was left stranded by Willock’s superb strike.
CB: Cesar Azpilicueta – 6/10 – Didn’t do much of note in that drab first half, before being hooked for Pulisic at half-time as Potter sought to improve Chelsea’s fortunes in attack.
CB: Trevoh Chalobah – 7/10 – A fairly solid display by Chalobah, who is continuing to show why he belongs in Potter’s starting XI.
CB: Kalidou Koulibaly – 6/10 – Dealt with a lot of Newcastle’s attacks effectively and provided decent cover for Hall, but could do nothing about the goal.
RWB: Ruben Loftus-Cheek – N/A – Suffered an early injury before he could make any sort of impact on the game.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 6/10 – Worked hard, but struggled against Newcastle’s greater numbers in midfield.
CM: Jorginho – 6/10 – See above.
LWB: Lewis Hall – 6/10 – Newcastle targeted Chelsea’s left flank, making it an uncomfortable day out for the 18-year-old.
RW: Conor Gallagher – 6/10 – Forced a good save from Pope in Chelsea’s best attack of the game.
LW: Mason Mount – 6/10 – Mount’s ponderous form in 2022/23 shows no signs of improving, with the England international struggling to make an impact once again today.
ST: Armando Broja – 5/10 – To be fair to Broja, he had very little support and was often the only Chelsea player in an attacking position. Still, this was a day to forget for the striker.
SUB: Thiago Silva – 7/10 – Kept Newcastle at bay for a long time, and looked a great deal more assured than his partners in the back line.
SUB: Christian Pulisic – 6/10
SUB: Kai Havertz – 6/10
SUB: Hakim Ziyech – 6/10
SUB: Marc Cucurella – 6/10
MANAGER: Graham Potter – 5/10 – Set his side up to hit Newcastle on the break, but only succeeded in handing the initiative to Newcastle. His side hardly looked like scoring at all, which is a major worry when you consider the cost of their attack.