Gritty Chelsea spare Jose Mourinho more Newcastle misery
Jose Mourinho is still to win a Premier League game at Newcastle, but the Chelsea boss must have felt like he was celebrating a victory after his side came from two goals down to rescue a 2-2 draw on Saturday.
Trailing to goals from Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum, the reigning champions looked like suffering a fourth defeat in the space of seven Premier League matches when they were still 2-0 behind with 11 minutes left at St James` Park.
But after Brazilian midfielder Ramires clawed a goal back with a sensational long-range finish, his compatriot Willian`s floated free-kick found its way beyond Tim Krul in the 86th minute to complete a gritty comeback from the visitors.
Chelsea might even have claimed a winner with Ramires forcing a fantastic last-minute save from Krul, but their comeback still provided a timely riposte to those who were questioning their character after a stuttering start to the season.
Newcastle`s spirited showing was also a welcome tonic after a difficult few weeks on Tyneside, but Steve McClaren`s side are still searching for their first league victory and remain in the bottom three.
The Magpies went into the game reeling from their humiliating midweek League Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, but hardly looked a team devoid of confidence as they tore into Chelsea from the outset.
With Perez outstanding at the apex of the midfield, and Aleksandar Mitrovic providing a much-needed physical presence as the striker returned from a three-match suspension, the hosts were more threatening than they had been in any of their games since the opening day of the season.Mitrovic went close with a 16th minute header that whistled wide, before Moussa Sissoko also narrowly failed to find the target with a low shot from the edge of the area.
Asmir Begovic was called into action shortly after, saving from both Perez and Daryl Janmaat as Newcastle continued to press.
But the Chelsea goalkeeper was powerless to prevent his side falling behind three minutes before the interval.
Vurnon Anita crossed from the right, and after pulling between Branislav Ivanovic and a dawdling Kurt Zouma, Perez took a superb first touch, then dispatched a clinical half-volley via the left-hand post.
Chelsea could have no complaints about being behind at that stage as their own first-half efforts were fitful at best.
Loic Remy endured a frustrating return to Tyneside as he found himself isolated for long spells, while neither Pedro nor Eden Hazard were able to exert much of an attacking influence as they were closed down by some disciplined Newcastle defending.
Having watched his side get their season back on track with a win over Arsenal seven days earlier, Mourinho will have been furious at his players` lack of impetus before the break, and his half-time words had an effect as Chelsea briefly improved at the start of the second half.
Remy headed Oscar`s cross wide, but with Mourinho poised to introduce Radamel Falcao and Willian on the touchline, Newcastle struck for a second time in the 60th minute.
Perez swung over a corner from the right, and Wijnaldum escaped Fabregas` clutches to glance an excellent header into the bottom left-hand corner.
Chelsea reduced the deficit with 11 minutes remaining, with substitute Ramires rifling a brilliant long-range strike into the top left-hand corner.
Suitably inspired, Mourinho`s men poured forward and struck again to claim an equaliser four minutes from time.
Willian whipped over an inswinging free-kick from the left-hand side, and while Ramires failed to make contact on the edge of the six-yard box, he did enough to distract Krul, who could only watch as the ball flew past him into the net.