Chelsea 3 Newcastle United 4
WITH a 15-year-old on Chelsea’s bench, what might otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill League Cup tie always promised to be an anorak’s dream.
But by the final whistle it was another statistic people were rifling through the record books for. And a pulsating third-round tie was anything but run-of-the-mill.
Not since 1986 have Newcastle United come away from what was then a much more decrepit Stamford Bridge with a win. Five of yesterday’s team were not born then.
A quarter of the way through the game, the record looked pretty safe, but inspired by two-goal Shola Ameobi they snatched it in circumstances as dramatic as they were impressive.
Granted, this was a Chelsea team unrecognisable from the one which has rampaged through the last six months, but it was a scarcely-seen Ameobi too, showing all the power and desire needed in a top striker. But the way Chelsea fought back showed their was no lack of heart on their part, and the way they started a cricket score was looming. Chelsea have been in a class of their own this season. Their former England captain was of a more recent vintage, even their youngsters were younger. Chelsea’s number 62 was on the bench, even though Nathaniel Chalobah does not turn 16 until December.
Yuri Zhirkov had shot wide after being teed up by Nicolas Anekla, but little else had happened before Chelsea led. Debutant Sol Campbell, whose first touch for Newcastle was booed loudly was partly to blame, colliding with Tim Krul as both chased a right-wing cross. The ball was never properly cleared and Patrick van Aanholt tackled Nile Ranger, then finished off a one-two with Gael Kakuta.
Campbell headed wide a good chance from Ryan Taylor’s cross two minutes later but it was a rare break in the one-way flow of the game. A stretching Kakuta headed wide Paulo Ferreira’s cross and Krul twice had to be quick off his line to nick the ball from Anelka.
To say it was a shock when Newcastle equalised would be an understatement but it totally tipped the balance of power. He might not have gone as far as Carlo Ancelotti with his nine changes, but Chris Hughton declined to take the champions on head on, giving fringe players Ameobi, Campbell, Ranger, Taylor, Shane Ferguson, Peter Lovenkrands and Haris Vuckic rare starts.