Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle United

A disputed first-half penalty from Frank Leboeuf spoilt Bobby Robson's return to English football, and ensured that Newcastle remain in deep trouble as Chelsea leap to second spot behind Manchester United.

In his first match in charge of an English club side for 17 years, Robson proved that in football fans' hearts absence certainly does makes the heart grow fonder as he took his seat to warm applause from both sets of supporters.

It quickly transpired that the former England manager had settled on a 5-3-2 formation, with Nol Solano and Didier Domi as wing-backs, and Kieron Dyer in central midfield.

However, there was nothing subtle about the visitors' approach in the opening exchanges as they launched a series of high balls to capitalise on the strength of the 22m Duncan Ferguson and Alan Shearer strikeforce.

Chelsea were having to battle for possession, and space was at a premium, as Newcastle continued to show plenty of passion if precious little guile. Shearer became embroiled in a confrontation, the first of which saw Dennis Wise booked and the second clashing with Celestine Babayaro.

Chelsea took the lead nine minutes from the break in controversial circumstances. Gary Speed was deemed to have held back Babayaro as the midfielder lunged at Gianfranco Zola free-kick. Leboeuf calmly converted and Nikos Dabizas was booked for dissent.

Newcastle's best chance of the half fell to Duncan Ferguson shortly after but Ed De Goey pulled off a fine one-handed save to keep out the Scot's towering header.

Gustavo Poyet had just replaced Graeme Le Saux, when Newcastle were denied a penalty claim themselves on the hour mark. Keiron Dyer attempted to capitalise as the ball broke in the box and De Goey appeared to take man and ball at the same time. Referee Graham Poll remained unmoved and Dyer was booked for his protest.

Newcastle continued to batter the Chelsea rearguard, without creating any real openings, and Paul Robinson came on for Ferguson in a final bid for parity.

Robson will have been pleased with the determination and spirit shown by his new charges, but points are what they require and grit isn't always enough when you are chasing such a valuable Premiership commodity.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Desailly, Leboeuf, Le Saux (Poyet 57), Goldbaek (Petrescu 46), Wise, Morris, Babayaro, Sutton (Flo 68), Zola.
Subs Not Used: Hogh, Cudicini.
Booked: Wise, Leboeuf, Ferrer.
Goals: Leboeuf 37 pen.

Newcastle: Wright, Barton, Dabizas, Goma, Domi, Dyer, Speed, Lee (Maric 77), Solano (Hughes 87), Shearer, Ferguson (Robinson 73).
Subs Not Used: Harper, McClen.
Booked: Solano, Barton, Dabizas, Dyer.
Att: 35,092
Ref: G Poll (Tring).