Eden Hazard’s first Chelsea hat-trick took the Blues back to the top of the league table.
The flying Belgian netted twice in open play in the first half, with the second of those strikes an especially fine move, and he completed the scoring from the penalty spot in the second half as the momentum built up by beating Manchester City was maintained by another invigorating team performance.
Newcastle were limited to one good chance each half while Jose Mourinho’s side were a threat throughout. With Arsenal heavily beaten at Anfield and Man City drawing at Norwich and again failing to find the net, we lead the pack by a point with 25 of the 38 games played.
John Terry missed his first Premier League minutes of the season as a precaution due to a minor muscle problem so David Luiz dropped back into defence.
Frank Lampard returned to midfield alongside Nemanja Matic and took the captain’s armband, and Oscar was restored in the no.10 role with Ramires dropping to the bench. Willian and Eden Hazard were the flank attackers with Samuel Eto’o again the spearhead.
Newcastle selected new loan signing Luuk de Jong as their centre-forward with Shola Ameobi dropped. Davide Santon moved forward from left-back to fill the midfield hole made by injury to Chieck Tiote, with Paul Dummett coming into the Magpies defence.
Newcastle arrived in London off the back of a horror show against local rivals Sunderland in their last game but also with the knowledge they had produced one of the best displays against Chelsea this season when these sides met back in November.
That day Jose Mourinho lamented a lack of urgency by his players when enjoying plenty of possession in the first half. There was to be no repeat of that failing in this return match at the Bridge.
Very soon after the start the man in red-hot form, Eden Hazard, was given the chance to move outside of centre-back Mike Williamson and shoot by Azpilicueta’s pass, but Tim Krul saved on the floor. Lampard drilled a low free-kick a few yards wide as the early pressure was maintained.
Eto’o, in possession out wide, then found Lampard who doesn’t need a second invitation to shoot, but Newcastle had plenty of men back to block.
Hatem Ben Arfa produced Newcastle’s best moment of the opening spell when he wriggled away from Oscar but his shot was fielded by Cech before on 10 minutes, Lampard did manage to fire an effort through the defence but again Krul saved comfortably.
Just past the quarter-of-an-hour mark Chelsea began picking away at the Newcastle lock with some eye-catching passing and moving inside the penalty area, but weren’t quite accurate enough with the final passes. Small margins were holding us back.
When Mourinho’s men broke up a Newcastle attack on halfway, they counter-attacked in a flash through Willian and Hazard but Krul reached a low centre just ahead of the pouncing Eto’o. The Blues were looking good though, and Matic forced the ball on towards the visitors’ area before Oscar’s low, well-struck effort went wide. It was the closest attempt yet.
The opening goal was very much on the cards and it was the craft and accuracy of Hazard that led to the breakthrough. Having passed out wide to Ivanovic, the Belgian continued his run and when a return pass came into the middle, Hazard swept it first-time beyond the reach of Krul and into the far side of the net.
It had taken 27 minutes to take the lead but we were called upon to defend it five minutes later when Sanmy Ameobi escaped in behind having been played onside by David Luiz. A combination of a poor touch by the winger and Cech swiftly racing to meet the danger denied the Geordies an equaliser.
A second goal for the Blues before half-time was highly desirable and it came just a minute after that scare. It was also brilliant.
David Luiz set the move on its way and his compatriot Willian carried the ball on. Hazard took over out on the left and charged goalwards before executing a sublime one-two with Eto’o, the Camroonian back-heeling into Hazard’s path for a close-range finish. Krul was left helpess and the defence would have been chasing shadows had they existed on this gloomy, windy day.
Hazard could have had a first-half hat-trick but momentarily lacked composure and shot over as Chelsea broke again past Newcastle’s pressing midfielders. Alan Pardew’s team were chasing the game and that meant gaps to exploit.
Attacking the Matthew Harding end this half, Ivanovic, who was playing his 250th Chelsea game, was tripped not far from the Newcastle area by Ameobi who became the first player booked by Howard Webb.
Lampard’s free-kick came to nothing but Chelsea almost added a third goal just six minutes after the restart thanks to a moment of slapstick from the Newcastle keeper. David Luiz had lofted a ball forward and as it bounced, Krul, who had raced to meet it, realised he had come too far and was outside his area. As he slammed on the brakes he slipped and the ball cleared him. Unfortunately it also rolled wide of the goal just too far ahead of the chasing Oscar.
Krul needed treatment on his ankle soon after but played on and was able to pouch the ball as an Eto’o shot was half-blocked by Williamson.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who had come on at right-back for injured Mathieu Debuchy shortly before half-time, was booked for a crude tackle on Hazard and this time Lampard from out wide extended Krul with the free-kick.
A corner followed, miss-struck by Lampard but Newcastle hadn’t escaped. Yanga-Mbiwa was again the villain, pulling down Eto’o at the far post as the ball was delivered and a penalty was awarded.
Lampard magnanimously passed up the chance of his 50th Chelsea penalty goal to allow Hazard the chance of a hat-trick. The invitation was taken as Krul was wrong-footed by the 23-year-old for his 14th goal of the season.
There were 27 minutes left on the clock to add to the 3-0 lead. Newcastle went close with a good move but Ameobi shot wide.
On 77 minutes came a Chelsea debut, Mohamed Salah brought on for Willian who had again played his part.
Salah had one half-chance to score after two other subs – Ba and Schurrle – sprung a counter-attack but the Egyptian screwed his shot wide, and then he had a very good opportunity made by Oscar but shot too close to Krul. He was also lunged at by Sissoko who was punished with a yellow card.
Newcastle missed a sitter that fell to substitute Sylvain Marveaux before the end but further Chelsea goals would have come but for wayward shooting by Schurrle and Ba.
As the whistle blew Chelsea were able to celebrate three goals, three points and a seventh clean sheet in the last eight games. Before the game Petr Cech was presented by the club with a commemorative trophy to mark his new clean sheet record set last month. It was handed over by the man he surpassed, Peter Bonetti.
Next up for Chelsea’s stars of today as an away league trip to West Brom on Tuesday night.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1):Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, D Luiz, Azpilicueta; Lampard (c), Matic; Willian (Salah 77), Oscar, Hazard (Schurrle 84); Eto’o (Ba 70).
Unused subs Schwarzer, Cole, Mikel, Ramires,.
Scorers Hazard 27, 32, 63 pen.
Newcastle (4-2-3-1):Krul; Debuchy (Yanga-Mbiwa 40), Williamson, S Taylor, Dummett; Anita (Marveaux 84), Santon; Ben Arfa (Gosling 63), Sissoko, Sammy Ameobi; De Jong.
Unused subs Elliot, Haidara, Shola Ameobi, Armstrong.
Booked Ameobi 48, Yanga-Mbiwa 60, Sissoko 88.
Referee Howard Webb