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Chelsea reclaim summit

11 January 2015, 08:45

London - A below-par Chelsea claimed first place outright in the Premier League on Saturday by beating Newcastle United 2-0 at Stamford Bridge through goals from Oscar and Diego Costa.

Jose Mourinho's side were far from their best, but returned to winning ways after a mini-slump that had seen them draw 1-1 at Southampton before being routed 5-3 at Tottenham Hotspur.

With title rivals Manchester City slipping up in a 1-1 draw at Everton, victory enabled Chelsea to open up a two-point lead at the top of the table.

Back in league action for the first time since their drubbing at White Hart Lane on New Year's Day, Chelsea were always going to be jittery.

Gary Cahill lost his place in central defence, with Kurt Zouma coming in, while a finger injury to Thibaut Courtois saw Petr Cech deputise between the posts.

Having seen their eight-point advantage wiped away by defending champions City in recent weeks, Chelsea have to do it all over again, but they were off the pace in the first half.

Simple routine passes went astray and Newcastle, with John Carver taking caretaker control following Alan Pardew's exit, appeared to have their own point to prove.

The warning signs were there for Chelsea as the Remy Cabella saw his shot deflected just wide off John Terry.

Cech then just beat out Yoan Gouffran's powerful free-kick to safety.

Chelsea can slide through the gears to hit sides when they least expect it, but they squandered an opportunity in the 21st minute when Costa elected to pass rather than shoot after a three-on-one attack. It summed up the hosts' start.

The lively Cabella force another low save out of Cech, and Chelsea appeared to be hanging on.

Moussa Sissoko came even closer following another swift counter-attack, the Frenchman hitting the outside of the post with a powerful shot in the 31st minute after skipping past Terry.

Newcastle risked paying the price for not taking their chances and so it proved as Oscar drew first blood in the 43rd minute.

It was self-inflicted from Newcastle's point of view as they switched off at a corner and were duly punished.

Willian's pass found Branislav Ivanovic and his low cross was turned in by Oscar at the far post.

Despite leading, Chelsea continued to struggle to get going in the second half, but a moment of quality saw Costa extend their lead with 59 minutes played.

Hazard and Oscar combined, with the Brazilian's back-heel allowing Costa to find room and drill home past Tim Krul for his 15th Premier League goal of the season.

It was out of keeping with Chelsea's performance, but being able to turn it on when it most matters, like they have done on several occasions this season, underlined why they are the title favourites.

Newcastle had dropped off the pace by this point and a rare foray forward saw Sammy Ameobi's mishit cross force Cech to backtrack and tip the ball over the bar.

But Chelsea were now in cruise control. Costa had a glorious chance to kill off Newcastle for good, but the Spain international's scuffed shot was cleared off the line by Fabricio Coloccini.



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