EPL 2012: Chelsea defeat Newcastle 2-0
London: Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres inspired Chelsea to a routine victory over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge.
The attacking pair scored a goal each, with Hazard handing the Blues the lead from the penalty spot after Torres had been fouled by Vurnon Anita.
The Spaniard then found the top corner from 18 yards with a shot struck sweetly with the outside of his boot after his new team-mate had laid the ball off with a neat back-heel.
Newcastle improved after the break but chances remained few and far between, with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse kept largely at bay as Roberto Di Matteo`s side returned to the top of the Premier League table.
Chelsea started the game without two of their most experienced players, as defender John Terry was ruled out due to a neck injury and Frank Lampard was left on the bench. Gary Cahill and David Luiz were therefore partnered at centre-back, with Raul Meireles alongside John Obi Mikel in midfield.
Anita made his first Premier League start in midfield for Newcastle, with Cheick Tiote unavailable with a knee injury. Fabricio Coloccini returned to the defence after a thigh strain.
The Blues introduced new signings Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses to the Stamford Bridge faithful before kick-off but once the whistle had been blown all eyes, once again, were on Hazard.
The Belgian was the brightest light of a muted opening quarter of an hour and as Torres grew into the game Chelsea began to ask more questions of the Newcastle defence.
Anita`s transition to English football, unfortunately for Newcastle, was not to be quite as smooth as Hazard`s and when Torres skipped into the box the Dutch midfielder caught him on the knee with a wild swing of his left boot.
The referee, Phil Dowd, rightly pointed to the spot and Hazard, needing only a short run-up, coolly swept the resulting penalty into the bottom corner to Tim Krul`s right.
Chelsea kept a firm grip on the first half thereafter. Torres was unfairly penalised for diving after knocking the ball past Coloccini, who caught the Spaniard as he continued his run, although Jonas Gutierrez likely would have retrieved the ball first regardless.
Cisse and Ba plugged away in attack at the other end while Hatem Ben Arfa hinted sporadically that he could be a threat, but Chelsea coped comfortably even in the absence of Terry.
Di Matteo`s team remained patient and gave Newcastle a mountain to climb on the stroke of half-time. Unsurprisingly, Hazard was involved again, and his combinations with Torres are giving Chelsea fans reason to be increasingly cheerful.
The duo will combine for more goals after this one but not many will be of better quality. Hazard received the striker`s pass on the edge of the box and, turning away from goal, completed the one-two by back-heeling into his path. Torres was left with little space in which to manoeuvre but instinctively struck a shot with the outside of his boot that flew into the top corner.
Newcastle`s chances of playing their way back into the game after the break appeared remote, though Ben Arfa engineered enough space to shoot narrowly wide from the edge of the box and Ba saw a shot from a tight angle saved.
They did have more of a share of possession, however, although Torres` counter-attacking runs continued to prove dangerous and Coloccini, Santon and Anita all needed to either cut out through passes or halt the 28-year-old`s progress in the Magpies` half.
With his side unable to create anything meaningful in open play, Alan Pardew turned to substitute and set-piece specialist Ryan Taylor shortly after the hour mark and the change very nearly – and perhaps should have – paid dividends. The full-back curled in a superb free-kick from the left that Cisse could only head over the bar from point blank range.
Bertrand flashed a vicious 20-yard shot past Krul`s far post, with a corner awarded despite the Dutchman`s claims to the contrary, and Ba should have done better when he shot too close to Cech from 12 yards after miscuing his initial effort.
The victory never looked in much doubt and Chelsea saw out proceedings to make it three league wins out of three in 2012-13.