Date: 2nd December 2017 at 2:56pm
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There were no early Christmas presents for Rafa Benitez from Chelsea as they welcomed his Newcastle United side to Stamford Bridge in a game that could see them go level on points with Manchester United. Antonio Conte set his side up in 3-5-2 formation that saw Antonio Rudiger replace Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta slot back in on the right side of the defence.

Victor Moses was back in the side and Danny Drinkwater started ahead of Tiemoue Bakayoko. Predictably when pitch announcer Neil Barnett mentioned the name of Chelsea`s returning interim manager Rafael Benitez, the ground, even though only half full at the time, rang to the sound of booing.

The game started and it was Benitez side that began the stronger, Chelsea`s defence looked a little unsure of themselves. In fact, it was that initial defensive frailty that lead to the opening goal. Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso both had opportunities to clear the ball before it fell kindly into the path of Dwight Gayle. Aided by his elbow, he raced into the box, Tibo saved the shot but Gayle fired the rebound home

It was the spark that lit Chelsea`s flame. With a sudden impetus the Blues were almost instantly on the front foot in search of the equaliser. Chelsea`s surge forced Newcastle back and Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata weren`t about to let them off the hook. The two of them began to combine in a way that`s difficult for the defenders to deal with, add in the two wing backs who were causing problems with their crossing and it was just a matter of time before Chelsea hit back.

The first chance for a Chelsea goal came from the head of Andreas Christensen who fired against the upright. Inevitably though, when the goal came it was from the foot of Eden Hazard, who volleyed the ball into the ground and the bounce took the ball out of the Karl Darlow`s reach.

With Chelsea very much in the ascendancy, they continued to probe for the goal that would extend their lead. They didn`t have to wait long. Victor Moses looking good on his first full game back following injury, fired a good ball across the face of the Newcastle goal, hoping for a touch from someone. The defenders opted to leave well alone, to save scoring an own-goal. That gave Alvaro Morata the opportunity to put his head in the way of the ball`s flight, changing it`s direction by ninety degrees and giving Chelsea the lead.

Having gone a goal down, it was an impressive turnaround for Conte`s men. Half time came and went and the second half was a little less frenetic.

The half saw Chelsea with the bulk of the possession. Hazard looked dangerous every time he had the ball. While the Belgian`s under contract, it`s going to take an extremely big number to see him leave. His runs into the box and the twists that see him gets shots away must be a nightmare for defenders. It was Hazard who made the game comfortable in the end.

Victor Moses was taken down as he ran into the penalty area and Hazard calmly chipped the ball into the goal, Panenka style, without even looking at the keeper. The final scoreline was 3-1 to the Blues.

Notable performances came from Cesc Fabregas, whose passing at times was unbelievable. Victor Moses, on his return was also caused problems for the Newcastle defenders all afternoon. In Danny Drinkwater, the potential is there for a successor to Frank Lampard.

Early Saturday kick-offs can sometimes be tricky affairs. However, if you get the win, they suddenly become a whole lot better, heaping pressure on the clubs around you.

With United playing Arsenal, one or both of those two will drop points on Chelsea. With City and United playing next weekend, these type of wins become crucial factors in how the season will end. As it stands Chelsea are on a roll.

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