Chelsea concedes late on to draw 2-2 vs. Newcastle
Chelsea gave an unconvincing response to losing its Premier League title to Manchester United, conceding an injury-time goal to draw 2-2 to Newcastle on Sunday in what could be manager Carlo Ancelotti's final home match in charge of the deposed champions.
Center back Steven Taylor headed home Newcastle's equalizer two minutes into second-half stoppage time to deny Chelsea a victory in its penultimate game of the season, which would have sealed a second-place finish behind United.
''We are disappointed because we were close to winning this game,'' said Ancelotti, who will find out after next Sunday's match at Everton if he will stay on for a third year in charge of the London club. ''We wanted to reach second place but now we have to fight again in the last game.''
With Arsenal losing 2-1 at home to Aston Villa, only Manchester City - which is six points behind Chelsea with a game in hand - could beat Ancelotti's side to second place. That is unlikely, however, with the London club having a much better goal difference.
Ancelotti's future is dependent on the whims of billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich, who was in the stands at Stamford Bridge to watch a much-changed Chelsea side twice surrender the lead against the plucky visitors from the north east.
Argentina midfielder Jonas Gutierrez deflected in Ryan Taylor's free kick to cancel out Branislav Ivanovic's opener for Chelsea after just 117 seconds.
Brazil defender Alex, recalled to the team in place of compatriot David Luiz as one of six changes to the side that started a 2-1 defeat at United last weekend, met Frank Lampard's deep free kick to restore the hosts' lead in the 83rd but the team lost concentration for Taylor's late strike.
''In the last minute, we conceded a goal, which is not good because we have lost a lot of points in the last minutes of matches,'' said Ancelotti, who did a traditional lap of appreciation around the stadium with his players and their families after the final whistle.
The Italian coach had one eye on the future by picking England Under-21 star Josh McEachran in midfield and trying out an alternative forward line, comprising Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun and Nicolas Anelka.
But after a strong opening to the match, which saw Ivanovic bundle in a finish off his thigh from close range after Torres flicked on Lampard's corner, Chelsea looked more and more like a team of strangers.
Newcastle's equalizer had more than a hint of good fortune about it - Gutierrez knew nothing about the deflection off the side of his right leg that wrongfooted Cech - but the visitors regularly threatened on the counterattack. Northern Ireland winger Shane Ferguson, one of a number of young players blooded by manager Alan Pardew, impressed with constant forays down the left.
''I was delighted with the result,'' Pardew said. ''We tried to set the team up with a positive view of the game, that we could hurt Chelsea. We needed to stick to the game plan and we did. The players were magnificent. It was a just result.''
Torres, stuck on a solitary goal for his new club since a January move from Liverpool for 50 million pounds, cut an increasingly forlorn and frustrated figure up front, with his control letting him down and his runs superbly marshalled by markers Fabricio Coloccini and Taylor.
''Our two center halves were absolutely outstanding,'' Pardew said.
The first half ended with the Blues struggling to create any clear-cut chances and Newcastle started the better after the break, Gutierrez having a powerful shot saved by Cech in the 59th.
It was only when Ancelotti threw on striker Didier Drogba and winger Florent Malouda in the 61st to partner the laboring Torres in attack that Chelsea finally found some hustle going forward.
Ashley Cole, running onto a cushioned layoff by Drogba in the 75th, chose to square the ball when a shot seemed more obvious and John Terry headed over moments later before Alex popped up with what looked like the winner.
With 63 seconds remaining, Taylor had other ideas.