By Damian Spellman, PA Sport
Gustavo Poyet gave Chelsea the psychological
advantage over FA Cup semi-final opponents Newcastle as he condemned
Bobby Robson to his first home defeat.
The Uruguayan's 22nd-minute header was enough
to win a drab contest in which United never came anywhere near their
best in the face of a hugely professional display by the Londoners.
Newcastle battered away at Gianluca Vialli's
side as they fought to preserve their 14-match run at St James'
Park, but they lacked a cutting edge and rarely looked like
snatching a point.
Chelsea keeper Ed De Goey only needed to make
two good saves from Alan Shearer and Kieron Dyer as he broke Peter
Bonetti's 25-year-old club record by keeping his 22nd clean sheet of
Newcastle were forced to change their shape
after starting with a five-man defence which left them unbalanced,
but although they were a little more compact when they returned to a
4-4-2 line-up, the die had been cast.
Vialli made no fewer than five changes to the
side which lost 1-0 in Marseille in midweek, with Emerson Thome
replacing Marcel Desailly in central defence and Celestine Babayaro
coming in at left-back for Jon Harley.
Roberto Di Matteo and Jody Morris were
preferred to Didier Deschamps and Dan Petrescu in midfield, and
Chris Sutton took over from Tore Andre Flo up front.
Newcastle made two changes to the side which
won 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday last week as Steve Howey replaced the
injured Helder in his first start since April 11 last year and
Didier Domi came in for Kevin Gallacher.
Robson's experiment with a five-man defence,
pushing Aaron Hughes into a central three, failed to pay off. Rob
Lee and Gary Speed found themselves isolated in central midfield as
Dennis Wise and Jody Morris ran the show, and with the Gianfranco
Zola lively up front, the home defence never really looked
For all that, it was United who created the
first chance with just three minutes gone as De Goey kept out
Shearer's well-struck free-kick.
However, Zola's craft down the right proved
too much for Domi and Hughes at times and the pair had a let-off
when Sutton shot over on eight minutes after the Italian left them
in his wake with a neat turn.
Chelsea took a grip of the game as they
settled the better and they deservedly went in front with 22 minutes
Lee gave the ball away to Di Matteo, who found
Morris down the left, and he picked out Poyet's run to allow the
Uruguayan to power a header past Shay Given.
It was only a matter of time before Robson
changed the shape of his team, with Domi pushing into midfield and
Hughes dropping in at left-back, and while they scarcely looked more
dangerous they were at least able to compete more effectively.
They should have been back on terms nine
minutes before half-time when Lee crossed for the unmarked Speed,
but he directed his header straight at De Goey.
Duncan Ferguson saw a looping header drop just
over and Dyer had a great chance to equalise in injury time from his
side's best move of the half.
Shearer headed down Warren Barton's cross to
Ferguson, and when he found Dyer, the England midfielder shot
towards the top corner only for De Goey to pull off a fine save.
Robson ended Nolberto Solano's exile at the
break as he replaced Domi with the Peruvian, but although his side
looked a little more threatening, they failed to carve out many
Instead, they were reduced to heaving a series
of long balls into the box for Shearer and Ferguson to attack, but
they found Frank Leboeuf and Thome in determined mood, and even when
they did come out on top, it was a blue shirt more often than not
which got to the breakdown first.
Ferguson was just inches away from reaching
Hughes' cross at the near post, and Shearer could not get any power
into his header from another ball in by the Irishman on 58 minutes.
And as United threw men forward in the search
for an equaliser, Zola and Sutton were able to exploit the space
they left at the back and make life difficult for Howey in
The central defender provided the ammunition
for Ferguson on 68 minutes with a long ball forward, but although
the Scot picked out Dyer with his header, he shot well wide.
And as time ran down, the chances of the home
side forcing a draw seemed to recede in the face of a determined
performance from the Chelsea defence.
Defender Nicos Dabizas was agonisingly close
to getting a foot to Shearer's 87th-minute knock-down, but De Goey
was able to breathe again as the ball ran wide of his left post.
Given kept it at 1-0 in the final minute as he
blocked Zola's shot, but that proved little consolation to his side.
Newcastle: Given, Barton, Howey,
Dabizas, Hughes, Domi (Solano 45), Dyer, Lee (Ketsbaia 75), Speed,
Subs Not Used: Harper, Gavilan, Antunes.
Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Leboeuf,
Thome, Babayaro, Morris, Di Matteo (Petrescu 48), Poyet, Wise,
Sutton (Flo 72), Zola.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ambrosetti, Terry.
Goals: Poyet 22.
Ref: M Riley (Leeds).