Newcastle United 0-1 Chelsea

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 the season.

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 comfortable.

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 gone.

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 meaningful opportunities.

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 particular.

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, Shearer, Ferguson.

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.

Att: 36,448

Ref: M Riley (Leeds).