Chris Hughton’s Newcastle ripped up the form guide and handed Chelsea a first loss of the season, having previously won all six competitive games so far. Carlo Ancelotti followed up on his promise to promote young talent to the first team set-up as he gave opportunities to youth players Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta as well as a mixture of fringe players and established starters Nicolas Anelka and returning captain John Terry. The gamble appeared to pay off as the Blues took the lead after just six minutes as two of the Chelsea youngsters combined with Kakuta setting up van Aanholt, who fired home following confusion between former England international Sol Campbell and number two goalkeeper Tim Krul.
The travelling Toon Army supporters may have feared the worst but two goals in five first-half minutes sent the visitors in ahead at the break. Themselves sporting a much-changed side from their normal League starting line-up, Newcastle equalised as Nile Ranger converted Shane Ferguson’s cross to the back post, giving Ross Turnbull in the Chelsea goal no chance. Five minutes later, Turnbull was picking the ball out of his net again as after Bruma tripped the goal bound Shola Amoebi, defender Ryan Taylor stepped up to blast a thunderbolt free-kick home from the edge of the box. Amoebi scored himself soon after the half-time interval, capitalising on a sloppy pass by Paulo Ferreira to extend his sides’ lead, curling past Turnbull from 22 yards.
3-1 down, Chelsea were soon reduced to ten men for the final half hour as injury and bad luck conspired against them. At half-time, Ancelotti had made two changes, Terry replaced at centre-back by Alex and Salomon Kalou on for Kakuta, who was hurt after a bad landing from a hard tackle by Newcastle goal-scorer Taylor. Kalou lasted just ten minutes however as he had to be stretchered off the pitch after suffering a thigh injury chasing down a through ball. Next to go was Yossi Benayoun, pulling up with a calf strain, Chelsea unable to replace him having made all their substitutions. Incredibly, despite being a man light and outplayed for most of the match, Chelsea pulled themselves level as Anelka scored from van Aanholt’s cross and then coolly slotting home a penalty after Alex tumbled in the box. Ferreira almost won it for the Blues as his volley smacked the outside of Krul’s post, but it was Amoebi who sent the away fans into raptures as he headed home a corner in injury-time to send Chelsea crashing out.
One positive for Chelsea fans was the emergence of young Josh McEachran who replaced the injured Kalou and immediately caught the eye in the centre of midfield. At just 17, he made his first-team Chelsea debut in the closing stages of last weeks’ Champions League tie with MSK Zilina in Slovakia. Yet his Stamford Bridge debut gave strength to manager Ancelotti’s declaration that he would be a star of the future for Chelsea and England as he produced a faultlessly confident display. Assertive on the ball, hungry while not in possession, with quick feet and intelligent passing, the English youngster looked at home among his more experienced team-mates and impressed seemingly with every touch. Small and nimble, he provokes comparison with Arsenal’s Jack Wilshire and the two may battle in the future for international recognition. Left-back van Aanholt also seemed to fit the mould of a future starter as he made his first start in front of the Chelsea fans. As well as scoring the opening goal, he created many chances with his endless running up and down the left wing, offering support in attack at every opportunity, much like Ashley Cole. After lifting last season’s FA Youth Cup, it would seem Chelsea are ready to turn to youth over the cheque book in the search of continued silverware at Stamford Bridge.