NEWCASTLE UNITED’s winless run was extended to six games as they crashed to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Premier League champions Chelsea.

It all looked to be going well for Rafael Benitez’s side as Dwight Gayle fired them into a 12th-minute lead after a mix-up in the Chelsea defence.

But it did not take long for the hosts to turn things around at Stamford Bridge as some poor Magpies defending enabled Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata to score before the break.

Loading article content

Hazard added a third Chelsea goal from the penalty spot with 16 minutes left, nonchalantly chipping home after Matt Ritchie fouled Victor Moses,

Rafael Benitez made three personnel changes for the trip to Stamford Bridge, but the most significant alteration saw the Magpies switch formation.

Benitez set his side up with three centre-halves – Ciaran Clark, Chancel Mbemba and Florian Lejeune – with Ritchie and Javier Manquillo playing as wing-backs in a formation that mirrored Chelsea’s tactical style.

The ploy did not have the desired effect over the course of the following 90 minutes, although Newcastle initially started well. With Chelsea finding themselves pegged back in the opening ten minutes, the visitors even took a deserved, if surprise, lead.

They had already gone close in the ninth minute, with Mikel Merino side-footing the ball straight at Thibaut Courtois after Ayoze Perez laid the ball back to him, and found the net through Gayle three minutes later.

Chelsea’s defenders failed to deal with Lejeune’s long ball, and with Gayle having won a header, Marcos Alonso attempted to prod the ball back to his own goalkeeper.

His pass was short though, and while Courtois dived to the ball to prevent Jacob Murphy gaining possession, the ball broke kindly for Gayle, who rolled a simple shot into an empty net.

The goal gave Newcastle something to hold on to, but it also served to fire up the hosts. With Hazard and Morata outstanding, Chelsea were ahead within 21 minutes of falling behind.

Karl Darlow made an excellent save to deny Hazard as the Belgian raced on to Cesc Fabregas’ through ball, and Newcastle had a let off when Andreas Christensen headed N’Golo Kante’s cross against the outside of the post.

However, there was to be no escape when the reigning champions attacked again a minute later. Cesar Azpilicueta centred from the right, and while a sliding Lejeune prevented Morata from reaching the cross, the ball looped up invitingly for an unmarked Hazard to lash home a first-time volley.

Newcastle’s attempt to defend their penalty area was poor, and even worse was to follow as Chelsea claimed the lead shortly after the half-hour mark.

Ritchie’s attempt to cut out a diagonal ball fell at the feet of Moses, who crossed from the right-hand side. If Mbemba had been stronger, he might have been able to clear, but instead, he was brushed aside by Morata, who headed home powerfully from inside the six-yard box.

Morata almost scored again two minutes in the second half, but just as he looked poised to prod home Moses’ dangerous low cross, Mbemba slid in to produce an excellent clearance from inside his own six-yard box.

Chelsea completely dominated possession after the interval, camping themselves in the Magpies’ half for long periods as Hazard continued to pull the strings.

And the hosts added a third goal from the spot with 16 minutes left as Ritchie’s limitations in the wing-back role were once again apparent.

Moses got on to the wrong side of the Scotsman, who brought him down with a sliding tackle, and Hazard stepped up to dink his second goal of the game past Darlow.

The Belgian almost added a hat-trick moments later, but this time Darlow kept out his shot after he broke clear of the Newcastle defence to reach Morata’s through ball.

Darlow produced another good save with five minutes, getting down well to parry Alonso’s fierce low drive.

Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen (Cahill 80), Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Drinkwater, Alonso; Fabregas (Bakayoko 78), Hazard (Willian 78); Morata.

Subs (not used): Caballero (gk), Zappacosta, Pedro, Batshuayi.

Newcastle (5-4-1): Darlow; Manquillo, Mbemba, Lejeune, Clark, Ritchie; Murphy, Diame (Shelvey 75), Merino (Yedlin 85), Perez (Hayden 61); Gayle.

Subs (not used):  Elliot (gk), Aarons, Joselu, Mitrovic.