Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle United

New-look Chelsea gaining momentum

August 25, 2012
By Miguel Delaney , Stamford Bridge

In the end, this wasn't quite the rousing contest between reigning European champions and upwardly mobile Champions League contenders that many anticipated. Indeed, it became apparent that wouldn't be the case quite early on. Chelsea very swiftly illustrated that exact gap between the two teams.

Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres
PA PhotosEden Hazard and Fernando Torres were at the forefront of Chelsea's impressive display

In what was the finest performance of the season so far from Roberto Di Matteo's team, everything pretty much went like clockwork.

Three wins from three, two goals scored, number one in the league and nothing conceded. More importantly, defence and attack finally worked in perfect tandem. More impressively, Fernando Torres put in what was probably his most complete display in a Chelsea shirt, and arguably his most impressive display full stop for three years.

By the end of the season, this match may well be seen as a significant milestone in his resurgence. If the Spaniard hasn't quite completely recovered his formerly scorching pace - as illustrated by one second-half race with Vurnon Anita - he has seemingly recovered his confidence and assurance.

Right from the start, Torres was an utter nuisance for Newcastle. Indeed, on 21 minutes, he himself exposed Anita to force the first goal.

Storming into the box, Torres did make the most of a challenge from the Dutch midfielder with a reaction that can be classed as 'streetwise'. But, on the flipside, the Spaniard's speed of movement did draw a rash swing.

By the end of the game, then, he was attempting rabonas and flicking the ball about with his heel.

Of course, nothing illustrated Torres's rediscovered confidence like his stunning strike on half-time. Although it may have been something of a punt, it was the sort of thundering, emphatic finish we haven't really seen from him in two years.

But it wasn't just how Torres completed moves but how he contributed to them. His link-up play was excellent and he interchanged particularly well with that other star of Chelsea's start to the season, Eden Hazard.

Once again, the playmaker was a joy to watch. The penalty with which he opened the scoring encapsulated the coolness of his instant adjustment to English football.

In general, though, Chelsea were composed and in control all over the pitch. And that also marked a step-up. In both of their previous league games, it seemed they had to sacrifice either stardust or solidity in order to secure the points. Not here. They had elements of both. Two isolated Newcastle chances aside, Chelsea never really looked like conceding but always looked a threat.

Despite putting out their third different central defensive partnership of the season, both David Luiz and Gary Cahill combined well. At the other end, every single flurry of passes made Newcastle look uncomfortable.

By contrast, there was a disappointing flatness to Alan Pardew's side. That, however, could be explained by the fact that this was their second game in 48 hours, something the manager made sure to mention after the game.

"It was a little unfair on us," Pardew said. "We would have liked an extra day's rest. It would have made a difference. We know from our own stats. Professionals cannot play at the same level when they have two games in two days like that."

Alan Pardew
PA PhotosAlan Pardew's Newcastle side currently sit two points above the drop zone

If Newcastle's overall display could be explained away, though, Papiss Cisse's individual performance could not. For the second league game in a row, the forward who finished last season so well and even scored two sensational strikes at this very ground looked oddly off the pace.

He should have scored when presented with an opportunity to turn and finish in the first half. Although it is still very early for Pardew, this may well become an increasing concern.

It wouldn't have been so important for Newcastle at Stamford Bridge had Demba Ba showed the quality of last week, but he similarly missed a fine chance towards the end.

That, of course, was in stark contrast to Torres, and it was one of a number of differences between the teams that ultimately decided this game for Chelsea.

At present, every element of the evolution looks impressive.