Taylor Header Thwarts Chelsea (Sky Sports)
Chelsea 2 Newcastle United 2
are not yet assured of second place in the Premier League as Steven Taylor's
late header earned Newcastle a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
The league title may have been out of their grasp before kick-off but Carlo Ancelotti's side started with a bang as Branislav Ivanovic turned home a corner in the second minute.
It did not take the Magpies long to hit back though, as Ryan Taylor's long range free-kick hit the back of Jonas Gutierrez and wrong-footed Petr Cech into the net.
The tie looked to be petering out to a stalemate until Alex latched on to a Frank Lampard set piece to power a header into the bottom corner with just seven minutes remaining.
But there was still time for more drama as Chelsea went to sleep from a corner, allowing Steven Taylor to earn his team a deserved point.
After seeing Manchester United depose them as champions on Saturday, this afternoon's game was Chelsea's chance to lay down a marker for next season as they paraded their new home kit.
Despite appearing resigned to losing his job in the summer, Ancelotti's line-up reflected this as he made several changes, including starting Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun and Josh McEachran.
And despite Ancelotti's protestations that they could play together, he decided against pairing Didier Drogba with Torres.
It took the new-look Chelsea less than 10 minutes to open their account, Frank Lampard's corner flicked on by Torres for Ivanovic to volley home.
The home side continued to dominate as Roman Abramovich watched on from the Stamford Bridge directors' box.
But they undid the good work in the ninth minute when Alex gave the ball straight to Peter Lovenkrands and John Terry tripped the striker, earning a booking.
Making a rare start, Ryan Taylor struck the free-kick, which took a huge deflection off Gutierrez and flew past the wrong-footed Petr Cech.
If that was unlucky for Chelsea, they were fortunate in the 16th minute when Shola Ameobi beat Cech in the air and the striker's goalbound header was cleared.
The hosts also enjoyed a let-off when Ramires lunged horribly at Danny Simpson but failed to earn even a booking.
A crucial interception from Alex cut out a dangerous Shane Ferguson cross, while Ryan Taylor went close to deflecting the ball into his own net at the other end after Ashley Cole's centre sparked panic.
But as the half wore on, Chelsea began to look like a side that had not played together before as Newcastle more than matched them.
The hosts' passing was sloppy, while Torres' inability to hold the ball up was not helping and it appeared only a matter of time before Drogba entered the fray.
Torres wasted a good crossing chance immediately after the restart as his touch began to desert him, with any confidence he might have gained from ending his goal drought last month appearing to have evaporated.
Cole saw a header deflected behind and Ramires flashed wide from 30 yards, although Newcastle remained a threat and Gutierrez looped a header straight into Cech's arms and also curled too close to the goalkeeper from 25 yards.
Lampard had just been booked for going straight through the back of Joey Barton and Ivanovic soon followed suit for tripping the impressive Ferguson.
The resulting Taylor free-kick was clutched by Cech, despite the looming presence of Ameobi.
With a little more than 25 minutes remaining, Ancelotti abandoned his experiment, introducing Drogba, Florent Malouda and Michael Essien for McEachran, Ramires and Benayoun.
Newcastle then lost Ferguson to injury, Kazenga LuaLua coming on.
A brilliant Drogba free-kick evaded everyone and Simpson was carded for a foul on Essien as Chelsea tried to crank up the pressure.
Cole made a hash of a glorious Drogba lay-off before Terry headed over under pressure.
Newcastle introduced Nile Ranger for Gutierrez and they went close themselves when Lovenkrands' overhead kick screwed off target, the forward immediately replaced by Ameobi's younger brother Samuel.
But that 83rd-minute change came during a Chelsea free-kick which set up the winner, Lampard crossing and Alex leaping above Tim Krul to head home his first goal since October.
Ryan Taylor almost levelled in stoppage-time before namesake Steven did, taking advantage of slack marking to nod in Ranger's header back across goal.
Click Here For Official Team Sheet
Cech, Ivanovic, Alex,
Terry, Cole, Ramires (Drogba 64), McEachran (Essien 64), Lampard,
Anelka, Benayoun (Malouda 64), Torres
Subs Not Used Turnbull, Ferreira, David Luiz, Mikel
Booked Terry, Ramires, Lampard, Ivanovic
Goals Ivanovic 2, Alex 83
Krul, Simpson, S.
Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique, Barton, Ferguson (LuaLua 69), R. Taylor,
Gutierrez (Ranger 76), Shola Ameobi, Lovenkrands (Sammy Ameobi 82)
Subs Not Used Soderberg, Tavernier, Smith, Kuqi
Booked Simpson, Enrique, S. Taylor
Goals Gutierrez 10, S. Taylor 90
Referee L. Mason