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Hazard, Morata mask Chelsea issues as Blues deepen Toon gloom

Hazard, Morata mask Chelsea issues as Blues deepen Toon gloom
From ESPN - December 2, 2017

LONDON -- Three thoughts on Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.

1. Chelsea win but Conte has concerns

Chelsea may have beaten Newcastle 3-1 on Saturday but they still have issues.

Their squad is not big enough to cope with the rigours of a Premier League and Champions League campaign. Antonio Conte is continually reported to be unsettled.There has been still more upheaval in the corridors of power. But they retain that most crucial of attributes; the competitive advantage they have enjoyed for most of the Roman Abramovich era. They do not give up.

Last weekend, they kept fighting for a 1-1 draw when defeat at Liverpool seemed inevitable. They followed up their crushing 3-0 defeat at Roma with a 1-0 win over Manchester United. They responded to opening day disaster at home to Burnley by beating Tottenham at Wembley. And here, stunned by an early Newcastle goal, they responded in style.

This could easily have been one of those slippery games that inexplicably falls through the fingers. Chelsea were uncertain from the start, unsettled by Newcastle's robust approach. They conceded early when the visitors drove into the penalty area; Jacob Murphy's attempt rebuffed by Thibaut Courtois, Dwight Gayle's follow-up swiftly converted. The away supporters were jubilant. After five games without a win, they had an unexpected lead to defend. But it was not to last.

Instead of becoming flustered, Chelsea drew breath. And then they redoubled their efforts. Karl Darlow pulled off an extraordinary reaction save to deny Eden Hazard. Chelsea should have had a penalty when Darlow jumped on Alvaro Morata two minutes later. Andreas Christensen bounced a header off the post. And then Hazard stuck, crashing home an equaliser from a narrow angle. After 33 minutes, Chelsea led. Once again, Newcastle won the first ball and lost the second, with Victor Moses blasting a flat cross into the six yard box that was firmly met by Morata.

The second half brought more Chelsea dominance. On the touchline, Conte was now apoplectic with referee Kevin Friend's refusal to award his team a string of penalties. Friend, who had already inadvertently shoved Cesc Fabregas to the floor in the first half, finally relented in the 72nd minute, penalising Matt Ritchie for tripping Moses in the box. Hazard put the result beyond doubt with a delicate Panenka.

That was the signal for the shop to be shut. With one eye on Atletico Madrid's visit next week, Fabregas, Hazard and Christiansen were all duly removed.

What had started as a tense afternoon ended in a stroll but Conte will be aware there's still plenty of work to do, with Chelsea starting this match 11 points off runaway leaders Manchester City.

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