When I saw the team sheet at the start of the match (with Terry, Lampard and Ramires out, and Luiz, Meireles and Bertrand in), I will admit to being a tad nervous. But as it turns out I needn't have worried, as (in the first 45 minutes at least) Newcastle were sluggish in the extreme, due to having played in the Europa League just two days before.
Chelsea duly took advantage of this lethargy by scoring through a penalty from Hazard (from a foul on Torres). And - just on the stroke of half time - Torres went one better and scored himself from the edge of the area (after a terrific back heel from...you guessed it...Hazard).
As in our last match against Reading, we were playing some really nice football against Newcastle, and I expected us to really go to town on the opposition in the second half to kill them off. But, just like against Reading, after going ahead against Newcastle we got stuck in second gear, and from that moment on, barely had a shot on goal.
Seems to me that when Hazard tires (as appears to happen about the 60 minute mark), Chelsea lose their spark, along with any semblance of creativity. And this is something that will come back and bite us on the nether regions if we are not careful. The great Man Utd and Arse teams of recent memory (okay, not so recent in Arsenal's case!) used to hammer opponents when they got the chance. Something that really helped their goal difference come the end of the season. Whereas we seem to think one or two goals is enough. Not really sure why this is except to say that it's a very Jose type of tactic to sit back and try to hit them on the break, once we've gone in front. And to my mind all it does is invite pressure.
Still, I guess I shouldn't complain, as we've played 3, won 3 and scored 8 goals. Of which Hazard has scored 1, won 2 penalties, and has 4 assists! Now I'm trying not to get carried away about the lad, as the season is long (and tiring), and great players can fade (Mata last season for example). But by gum this is the most excited I've been about a player we've signed in a long, long time.
Other things of note from this game: Ivanovic was looking much more solid after a dodgy game against Reading. Ramires is still looking well off the pace, and needs to rediscover his form of the end of last season, and quick. Or he'll spend most of his time on the bench. Torres is looking that little bit better as each match goes by. Luiz and Cahill worked well together. At least when Luiz wasn't doing his 'controlled by a 10 year old on playstation' impression, and charging up the field every two minutes (will he never learn?).
It was also nice to see Ryan Bertrand get another game, as he adds some solidity to our defense when he backs up Ashley Cole. But he needs to work on his crossing a lot more in training, as it was poor today.
Brian M Logan