Chelsea set for Champions League with 5-1 Newcastle rout
LONDON (AP) — Chelsea prepared for its Champions League trip to Paris Saint-Germain by routing Newcastle 5-1 on Saturday, the biggest win of a miserable Premier League season for the champions.
Chelsea climbed to 12th place but the London club remains 14 points from fourth place. Winning the Champions League is the only way back into Europe’s elite competition next season and the challenge resumes in Paris in the round of 16 on Tuesday.
Confidence will be high after this emphatic win over relegation-threatened Newcastle which saw Pedro Rodriguez score twice after Diego Costa’s fifth-minute opener while Willian and Bertrand Traore also netted.
There was a blow for Chelsea, with captain John Terry coming off before halftime with a “small muscular problem” that will be assessed on Sunday, manager Guus Hiddink said.
Hiddink remains unbeaten since replacing fired manager Jose Mourinho in December.
“We tried to press from the first minute to surprise them and I think we did,” Hiddink told British broadcaster BT Sport. “We had an early goal and an early second goal so that made them very unstable.
“What, for me, is important is the good organization defensively and not dropping back.”
Chelsea raced into a 3-0 lead inside 17 minutes and looked like champions, but that was mainly down to Newcastle’s calamitous defending as Steve McClaren’s team lost for the sixth straight away game to fall into the relegation zone below Norwich on goal difference.
Andros Townsend did score his first goal since joining Newcastle in the 90th minute but it was a mere consolation.
“We got punished severely,” McClaren said. “We have been exposed tonight by a very good team.”
Costa showed no ill effects after breaking his nose in training on Thursday. Hiddink joked Chelsea had a “Zorro team” after Costa joined Cesar Azpilicueta in requiring a face mask. Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill have also recently worn the protection.
″(Costa) wanted to play desperately,” Hiddink said. “The way the first goal was scored was typically a striker who is in a good shape.”
In the fifth minute, Costa pounced in the box after Willian burst down the right channel and fed the striker. He stretched out a leg, beat Steven Taylor to the ball and flicked it across goalkeeper Rob Elliot and into the far corner.
Next Pedro intercepted Rolando Aarons’ pass toward Daryl Janmaat and executed a fine finish in the 9th. Chelsea had a third when Costa beat Fabricio Coloccini to the ball and set up Willian to score in the 17th.
Terry felt the back of his leg and hobbled away after an aerial challenge with Aleksandar Mitrovic. The pair exchanged words soon afterward and Terry was replaced by Baba Rahman.
But Newcastle barely tested Chelsea’s reshuffled defense as the hosts had further chances.
Branislav Ivanovic had a shot blocked and Pedro fluffed a shot after Jonjo Shelvey gifted the ball to Costa.
Having lost Terry, it appeared Chelsea might also have to withdraw Eden Hazard when Janmaat caught the Belgian from behind. But Hazard, on his first Premier League start since Jan. 3, continued.
Mitrovic was caught by Cesc Fabregas on the edge of Chelsea’s box, but no foul was given and Cahill blocked Shelvey’s effort before Mitrovic fired wide across goal.
The brief flurry of attacking activity early in the second half amounted to a purple patch for the visitors, who soon conceded a fourth in the 59th. Taylor failed to reach Fabregas’ ball over the top and Pedro tucked in with ease.
“The fourth goal really killed us and that’s what can happen when you come here,” McClaren said.
A fifth followed when Traore tucked in Azpilicueta’s cross for his first Premier League goal in the 83rd. Hazard managed to miss from close range before Townsend struck late on, firing low into the net.