Chelsea 2 - 1 Newcastle United

Scorers: Essien (28'), Kalou (86'), Butt (55').

Starting Eleven:
Belletti, Alex, Ben-Haim, Bridge
Essien, Mikel, Ballack (c)
Wright-Phillips , Kalou, J Cole

Under Ballack's captaincy for the first time, Chelsea played the first half well, and looked all set to win against the struggling Magpies. The Magpies should have scored on 14 minutes when Mikel was dispossessed in midfield by Butt, who sent Martins clear on goal but the striker was not quick enough to get away from the challenge from Alex. With better finishing and some help from Shay Given Chelsea could have killed the Newcastle threat in the fist half itself, after the Essein goal in the 28th minute. Blues controlled the game completely and chances arrived with ease. Belleti and Wright-Phillips were roaming unchallenged in the right side, while Bridge and Joe Cole caused havoc among the Newcastle defense in the left. Given kept the home side from scoring further and Chelsea ended the half with a miss from Wright-Phillips on the far side.

Ballack was lively in the first half but lack of match fitness became clearly visible in the second half, especially after the Newcastle goal. N'Zogbia, when he attacked was always a threat to the Chelsea defense and he, along with Duff started a move which ended with Butt scoring after Bridge failed to clear from the line. Joe Cole was replaced by Pizzaro early in the second half and the home fans made their feelings known to Grant. It was a stupid decision and the Peruvian looked completely 'lost'. His only contribution was to block Kalou by getting in his way.

Owen and Rozehnal came in for Newcastle while Ballack, understandably was replaced by Sinclair. For about 20minutes, after the Newcastle goal, Chelsea were completely clueless of what was happening. But in the last 10minutes, the attacks resumed. In the 86th minute, Mikel's shot was blocked by Pizzaro and Kalou found the net with two touches. He was completely on-side (I know Big Sam would never read this). With Hammers beating Manchester United and City holding Liverpool to a draw, Chelsea are back as serious title contenders.

Happy New Year To all True Blue Fans...