DIDIER DROGBA and Co eased the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas as Chelsea beat an emotionally-charged Newcastle. The Toon faithful were mourning the passing of Gary Speed but were up in arms after four minutes when last-man David Luiz upended Demba Ba — only to be shown a yellow card.
The Blues made the most of their good fortune and dominated large parts of the game with Drogba heading home a pinpoint cross from the excellent Juan Mata. The Ivory Coast hitman's effort came after Tim Krul had saved Frank Lampard's penalty and Chelsea had missed a hatful of chances.
Newcastle, playing their first game at the newly-named Sports Direct Arena, pressed for an equaliser and hit the woodwork on three separate occasions.
But Chelsea held on and ensured the points when Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge fired in late on to the AVB's relief. The game was played at an electric pace from the outset and the volume was turned right up when Luiz was caught out by a through ball from Yohan Cabaye.
Ba ran past the Brazilian and was through on goal. So when Luiz brought him down, the whole ground expected red card to be shown.
But bizarrely referee Mike Dean only booked the young centre-back, enraging Alan Pardew and his players.
To make matters worse, Cabaye conceded a penalty when he brought down Sturridge on 13 minutes. Up stepped Lampard but the Chelsea midfielder couldn't find a way past Krul who tipped the ball around the post in spectacular style.
But it only delayed the inevitable as Mata and Sturridge ran rings around Newcastle's back four. England Under-21 striker Sturridge rattled the post and threatened from distance as the Toon's problems got worse with talisman Fabricio Coloccini coming off injured.
Chelsea finally made the breakthrough on 38 minutes as Mata left Cabaye in his wake and crossed the ball in for Drogba to power in from six yards out.
Ba then hit the post from Guthrie's superb centre, giving Pardew's men optimism going into half-time. The Toon came out and upped the tempo and crashed the bar through Drogba's inadvertent flick and substitute Shola Ameobi's thunderous effort.
But Chelsea continued to look like getting a second and with two minutes to go they had it as substitute Salomon Kalou tapped home Fernando Torres's pass.
Sturridge finally had his name on the scoresheet in stoppage time as he curled past Krul to add some gloss to the scoreline.
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