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On a night when Papiss Cisse scored an unbelievable goal for Newcastle that defied physics, Chelsea realised that their chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League almost defies mathematics. They probably now need to win the final against Bayern Munich to qualify.
Cisse Premier League goal defies physics
Is this the goal of the season? Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse scores two amazing goals to beat Chelsea 2-0.
If Cisse's opener was good, a strong first touch and then firm finish, the Senegal international's second goal was simply sensational. When the ball fell his way, after determined work by the substitute Shola Ameobi, Cisse hit it first time with the outside of his right boot.
The angle was relatively tight, the distance was considerable. Yet from 25 yards out on the left, Cisse sent this half-volley flying through the London night air, totally catching out goalkeeper Petr Cech and speeding into the net.
Since moving to Newcastle in January, Cisse has scored a remarkable 13 goals in 12 games, drawing comparisons with legendary Magpies striker Alan Shearer. And no wonder, when Shearer himself was able to score goals out of nothing, such as his spectacular strike against Everton in 2001.
Manager Alan Pardew had hardly finished leaping about in glee at Cisse's goal when he had more good news with Cheick Tiote returning to the dug-out, after having been carried off on a stretcher following a nasty aerial collision with John Obi Mikel. When the final whistle went, Newcastle celebrated loudly.
Newcastle had been outstanding in the first half. The move to their 19th-minute was as good as Cisse's finish. No wonder Pardew celebrated. No wonder the away bench went crazy. This was the type of precise, fast-moving football that Pardew has drilled and instilled in this Newcastle side, much to the delight of their vociferous support in the corner of the Shed.
The ball was manipulated at speed into the danger area. Davide Santon, the visitors' left-back, darted down the flank, running on to a clever pass from Jonas Gutierrez. The Argentine's delivery was good, encouraging Santon to advance and pick out Cisse.
The Senegal international still had much to do but his response was from the very highest drawer, totally in keeping with a forward in form. Controlling the ball instantly with his right boot, Cisse did the rest with his left, rifling an unstoppable shot past Cech.
There is a lithe athleticism to Pardew's players, a pace and tactical discipline that makes them such significant opposition. Newcastle were effectively 4-4-2 with Hatem Ben Arfa running at young Ryan Bertrand and Gutierrez taking on Jose Bosingwa. Cisse and Demba Ba looked to find gaps between Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry, who endured an uncomfortable half. The pace and movement of Pardew's front pair was a constant thorn in Chelsea's side.
Chelsea rallied, briefly reviving memories of their strong start when Fernando Torres really menaced Newcastle's defence, even being brought down by Tiote. After Cisse's goal, Torres showed again, whipping in a great cross met by Florent Malouda. The Frenchman's header flew well wide, eliciting sighs from the Chelsea faithful.
Malouda was the supporting cast to Torres, assisted by Ramires and Daniel Sturridge, the Englishman who missed an early chance, and was removed at the break for Juan Mata. Chelsea looked stronger, more creative with Mata involved. Until then, Chelsea laboured. Raul Meireles lifted in a corner but Ivanovic headed over.
But Newcastle finished the half the better. Ba raced through, too quick for Meireles, too elusive for Ivanovic, but his low shot failed to beat Cech. Ben Arfa curled in the corner but Bertrand cleared. Ben Arfa changed the angle of his ensuing corner, playing it low to Yohan Cabaye, who failed to make significant contact. Fortuitously for Newcastle, the ball carried to Ba, who hit his near namesake. Still Newcastle pressed, Cabaye clipping in a cross that Mike Williamson headed over.
Even with Mata pulling a few strings, Chelsea were still not at the races as the second half progressed. The most style seen from somebody with Chelsea connections was their former midfielder, Gus Poyet, the current Brighton & Hove Albion manager, who was presented to the fans at the break, wearing the most elegant coat witnessed there since Jose Mourinho was in town.
With Chelsea lacking spark, Di Matteo sent out Didier Drogba to warm up. The tall Ivorian ran towards the Newcastle fans, who celebrated his proximity with a range of greetings. Those with longer memories will recall how he tore their defence during his days at Marseille.
Drogba arrived on the hour for Malouda, triggering a huge roar. The ground soon fell to a hush as poor Tiote fell to earth, sent spinning by the aerial challenge of Mikel. Tiote leant forward but then fell back, and the medics rushed on. For seven minutes, they worked to make Tiote comfortable, putting on a neck-brace and then lifting him gently on to a stretcher. As he was carried off, the whole ground applauded.
The game became fractious. Terry's tackle on Ben Arfa angered Newcastle's bench, claiming that he had gone in studs showing. Another challenge from Mikel then enraged Newcastle's players. Chelsea were similarly fired up, chasing hard for the equaliser. Torres flicked the ball on to Drogba, who ran into Fabricio Coloccini, screaming for a penalty, even running after Mark Halsey to no avail. Drogba then asked a question of Newcastle's goalkeeper, Tim Krul, who saved his free-kick.
Frank Lampard had entered the fray, attempting to create some opportunities, but Newcastle defended well, often deep. Ryan Taylor had joined Cabaye in the centre, working overtime to defend Newcastle's back four. Chelsea were really besieging Krul's box.
Chelsea were committing more and more to attack, even Ivanovic pushing up, Terry spending longer up. Pardew sought to relieve the pressure by sending on Gabriel Obertan for the tiring Ben Arfa.
Chelsea so nearly equalised with four minutes of normal time left. Terry met a Mata corner with a typically powerful header cleared off the line by Santon. Chelsea pushed and probed. But then came Cisse for his second. Magical.
Daily Telegraph, London, with smh.com.au