Steve Bruce under more scrutiny at Newcastle United
Newcastle United were beaten 2-0 at St James’s Park yesterday, but the scoreline could have been much worse given the visitors’ dominance.
And fans, shut out of St James’s Park for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic, fear things could get worse before they get better in their absence.
Certainly, Bruce’s team could have done with their support at St James’s Park, where Chelsea were beaten last season.
"They stayed with us in the game last year and the crowd was unbelievable in their attitude towards the team,” said Bruce. “All the big clubs miss the atmosphere. Of course, we’d like them back, but so would everyone else too."
Bruce, United’s head coach, had a number of decisions to make ahead of the Premier League game, the biggest of which being whether to risk Callum Wilson following his return to training this week. Bruce, understandably, erred on the side of caution – and fielded Joelinton up front.
Ciaran Clark, Isaac Hayden and Javier Manquillo were also recalled to the starting XI in place of Fabian Schar, Jeff Hendrick and Miguel Almiron.
Newcastle, however, didn’t get off to a good start. Seconds after Karl Darlow stopped a goal-bound header from Tammy Abraham, the ball was in the back of the net. Federico Fernandez, under pressure from Ben Chilwell, put a Mason Mount cross into his own net at the far post.
Bruce had wanted a reaction from his team to the 2-0 defeat to Southampton before the international break – but he didn’t get one.
There was a let-off for Newcastle later in the half when Timo Werner put a good chance wide.
United rarely threatened on the counter-attack. Joelinton tamely shot wide on one break upfield, while Allan Saint-Maximin, back on the left, had a shot deflected wide on another attack. Those forays were few and far between, and United were fortunate to be only one goal down at the break.
Bruce replaced Jamaal Lascelles – who had needed treatment late for a knee injury in the first half, and pulled up with a thigh problem before the restart – with Schar, and Fernandez took the captain’s armband.
Schar was caught in possession early in the half, but Werner’s pass to Abraham was cut out by Clark.
Newcastle went on to have a spell of possession – and Joelinton had a good sight of goal just past the hour-mark – but the game went away from them in the 65th minute. Werner broke forward and played in Abraham, who beat Darlow to make it 2-0 to Chelsea.
There was no way back from that – and Bruce now needs to quickly find a way forward for this team.
"We didn’t do enough in the first half, and got off to an awful start,” said Bruce. “And, against the big boys, the one thing you can’t do is gift them an opener.
"Second-half, I thought we were much better. We had a few opportunities, and you have to take one of them.”